Coach Stacey Jones has named an unchanged line-up for the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ week two NYC finals clash against Newcastle at Allianz Stadium on Saturday (5.15pm kick-off local time; 7.15pm NZT).
After dismissing the fifth-ranked Sydney Roosters 44-30 last week, the eighth-placed Vodafone Junior Warriors must overcome the minor premiership-winning Knights to advance to the preliminary final.
After finishing three points clear in the regular season, the Knights stumbled 22-30 to fourth-placed St George Illawarra in their play-off last Saturday.
The last time the Vodafone Junior Warriors and the Knights met in Newcastle last month, the home side prevailed 40-34 in a thriller while in June the Vodafone Junior Warriors had an impressive 34-22 win at Mount Smart Stadium.
Jones has been able to call on the same 18 players again this week after the big victory over the Roosters, the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ 12th success in 17 finals matches since the competition was introduced in 2008.
The starting line-up is unchanged from the one used at Allianz Stadium last Saturday night with Nathaniel Roache and Solomone Kata again paired in the centres. The bench comprises James Bell, Toafofoa Sipley, Ken Maumalo and Bunty Afoa with Ofahiki Ogden set to again be the 18th man.
This will be only the second time the Vodafone Junior Warriors have taken on the Knights in an NYC finals match. The first was in week one of their successful 2011 campaign when they swamped the Novocastrians 54-6.
Last week the Vodafone Junior Warriors unleashed on the Roosters with two scoring bursts giving them clear air in the opening period of both halves.
While the teams were level 6-6 early on, the Vodafone Junior Warriors then rocked the Roosters with three straight tries to lead 22-6 before going to the break 28-14 ahead. They then conceded the opening try of the second half to have their lead cut to 28-18 but quickly responded with a three-try assault to surge to a 44-18 advantage.
While the Roosters delivered the two final scoring plays of the day there was no denying the quality of the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ performance in the critical periods of the contest.
Their key contributors with the ball were Ken Maumalo (190 metres from 13 runs), Kata (166 from 14), Tuimoala Lolohea (137 from nine), Ngataua Hukatai (131 from nine), Metia Lisati (107 from 10) and Afoa (102 from 10).
The top tacklers were Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard (28), Kurt Robinson (26), James Bell (24), Afoa (23) and Mason Lino (23).
In providing 12 points from six of his eight conversion attempts, Lino boosted his season’s tally to 184 points in 18 games and his career total to 475 in 59 games, the most by a Vodafone Junior Warrior in the NYC’s history. It leaves him with a chance of breaking 200 points for the year and 500 for his career if the Vodafone Junior Warriors can sustain this finals campaign in his last season in the grade.
Prop Sam Lisone, also in his final NYC season, has a chance of reaching the 50-game milestone if the team’s run continues. This week he plays his 48th NYC match.
- Live coverage of the Vodafone Juniors Warriors v Newcastle Knights clash starts on SKY Sport 2 from 7.00pm on Saturday.
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS – NYC FINALS RECORD
2008 St George Illawarra Won 47-20
Penrith Won 38-4
Brisbane Lost 26-28
2009 St George Illawarra Lost 24-48
2010 Manly Won 25-22
Canterbury-Bankstown Won 23-16
South Sydney Won 42-28 (grand final)
2011 Newcastle Won 54-6
Canterbury-Bankstown Won 64-0
North Queensland Won 31-30 (grand final)
2012 Canberra Lost 38-39
Sydney Roosters Lost 10-26
2013 South Sydney Won 20-18
Sydney Roosters Won 58-6
Canterbury-Bankstown Won 54-38
Penrith Lost 30-42 (grand final)
2014 Sydney Roosters Won 44-30
(1) NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v (8) VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
5.15pm, Saturday, September 20
Referees: Chris Sutton and Matt Noyen
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS
1 BRAD ABBEY
2 NGATAUA HUKATAI
3 NATHANIEL ROACHE
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 METIA LISATI
6 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
7 MASON LINO (c)
8 SAM LISONE (c)
9 KURT ROBINSON
10 KOUMA SAMSON
11 MARATA NIUKORE
12 ADAM TUIMAVAVE-GERRARD
13 JAZZ TEVAGA
14 JAMES BELL
15 TOAFOFOA SIPLEY
16 KEN MAUMALO
17 IULIO AFOA
20 OFAHIKI OGDEN
COACH: STACEY JONES