NRL | Record goes unrewarded
The Beast did it but the Sydney Roosters spoilt the party with a late Blake Ferguson try stealing a 25-21 victory over the Vodafone Warriors in a drama-packed 14th-round NRL clash at Mount Smart Stadium tonight.
In the 35th minute of the match, Manu Vatuvei typically bulldozed his way through multiple defenders in the north-western corner of Mount Smart Stadium, real estate he has come to know so well during his 12-season career.
But while the touchdown was similar to so many others, it was unique in its significance for this 10th try of the season and the 145th of his career elevated him into the upper stratosphere. It was the moment that took him where no player before has been - now the first in the competition's 107-year history to score 10 or more tries in 10 consecutive seasons.
By the 80th minute the achievement had a hollow feeling, though, as the Roosters recovered from 6-20 down in the 42nd minute to work their way to a win which left the Vodafone Warriors devastated.
Vatuvei's try was the Vodafone Warriors' third unanswered effort of the first half, giving the home side a valuable 14-0 lead.
Earlier centre Solomone Kata had opened the scoring surging across wide out on the left in the 27th minute and then made an incision off a Sebastine Ikahihifo off load to put fullback Tuimoala Lolohea over.
A spilled bomb close to halftime gave the Roosters a way back in with Shaun Kenny Dowall the first to swoop on the loose ball. James Maloney's superb conversion made it 14-6 at the break.
The second spell opened spectacularly with Konrad Hurrell breaking down the right-hand touchline, finding support inside and then drifting infield to keep the movement alive near the posts. Knocked down but not held he squeezed out an off load and fellow Tongan Kata was there to drive over for his second try of the night and his 11th in his rookie season.
It took some time to verify but ultimately it helped the Vodafone Warriors to a 20-6 lead after 42 minutes.
Only seven minutes later the Roosters had cancelled it out, Brendan Elliot snaring a bomb and stretching out to slam the ball down. Maloney converted and then added a penalty soon after to close the game up to 20-14.
With 20 minutes to go this was yet another contest on a knife edge, all the more so with the Vodafone Warriors fielding such an inexperienced side. In the 64th minute the quota of experience was further eroded when hooker Nathan Friend was taken from the field with a head knock after helping to save a try on the line. The Vodafone Warriors also had Sam Lisone (back) on the injured list by that time leaving them short-handed.
This match had everything and soon it had too much for the Vodafone Warriors as Maloney came up with a try against his old club, the conversion and then a calmly taken field goal to give the Roosters a 21-20 lead after 74 minutes.
From the restart the Vodafone Warriors went short, the Roosters knocked on and the home side had an attacking scrum. Just as cleverly Shaun Johnson was set up to nail a field goal for 21-21.
Back downfield the Roosters went, Maloney was blocked for a field goal so Roger Tuivasa-Sheck attempted one instead. It was off target but it was knocked on in goal, the Roosters again with possession from the goal-line dropout.
They shaped to set up for a one-pointer again but spotting the defensive line out-numbered to the right they went wide, Ferguson scooting down the touchline to score with his right foot within a few millimetres of stepping on the touchline.
It was a total killer, devastating a brave Vodafone Warriors side which had fought so valiantly a week after succumbing to South Sydney in Perth.
Match details | Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 21 (Solomone Kata 2, Tuimoala Lolohea, Manu Vatuvei tries; Shaun Johnson 2 conversions, field goal)
Sydney Roosters 25 (Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Mitchell Aubusson, James Maloney, Blake Ferguson tries; James Maloney 3 conversions, penalty, field goal).
Halftime: 14-6 Vodafone Warriors.
Vodafone Warriors | Tuimoala Lolohea; Ken Maumalo, Konrad Hurrell, Solomone Kata, Manu Vatuvei; Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson; Albert Vete, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino; Bodene Thompson, Raymond Faitala-Mariner; Simon Mannering (c). Interchange: Sebastine Ikahihifo, Sam Lisone, Charlie Gubb, Jonathan Wright.