The Vodafone Junior Warriors have surged to second on the points table after a convincing 34-12 win over Gold Coast in today’s eighth-round NYC clash at Mount Smart Stadium.
After scoring three tries to lead 16-6 at halftime they added another three tries in the second half to maintain a perfect home record from four starts.
However, the victory also came at a cost with interchange hooker Sheldon Pitama injured in the last play of the game. He exploded into the clear on halfway and seemed set to score only to be stopped on the line. He remained on the field for some time before being taken off; early reports indicated a serious leg injury which could sideline him for an extended period.
Earlier interchange prop Amoni Tufui also had to be helped off the field with a knee injury. The full extent of the injury isn’t yet known.
Despite the injury setbacks the performance was impressive as the team came back strongly after conceding 12 points late in the game on their way to a 28-28 draw with the Cowboys last week.
While the Titans scored first, the Vodafone Junior Warriors quickly replied with wing Tomas Aoake’s ninth try of the season followed by strikes inside the last eight minutes of the half by second rowers Matiu Henry-Love – his seventh try in eight games – and Ofahiki Ogden.
The start to the second spell couldn’t have been any better with Jazz Tevaga scoring after a solid set in the 42nd minute and then fullback Brad Abbey plucking a bomb for another try three minutes later to stretch the lead to 28-6.
The score might have been anything after that but the Vodafone Junior Warriors dropped off somewhat with the Titans coming back with their second try.
They rediscovered their intensity in the closing stages with giant interchange forward Koli Oneone scoring on debut and Pitama’s would-be try would have taken the score to 40.
The result leaves the Vodafone Junior Warriors with five wins, a draw and just two losses so far this season.
Match details | Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Junior Warriors 34 (Toafofoa Sipley, Matiu Love-Henry, Ofahiki Ogden, Jazz Tevaga, Brad Abbey, Koli Oneone tries; Ata Hingano 5 conversions).
Gold Coast Titans 12 (Shaun Hudson, Josh Berkers tries; Shaun Hudson 2 conversions).
Referee: Shane Rehm.
Vodafone Junior Warriors: Brad Abbey; Tomas Aoake, Semisi Tyrell, Marata Niukore, Lewis Soosemea; Ata Hingano, Erin Clark; Paul Tuli, Nathaniel Roache, Toafoafoa Sipley (c); Ofahiki Ogden, Matiu Love-Henry; Bunty Afoa. Interchange: Sheldon Pitama, Amoni Tufui, Koli Oneone.