A David Fusitu’a second half hat-trick and Mason Lino’s perfect goal-kicking exhibition propelled the Vodafone Warriors to an impressive 36-28 victory over the Mounties in today’s 16th-round New South Wales Cup clash at Mount Smart Stadium.
The net effect of the result saw the Vodafone Warriors surge into second spot on the ladder on 22 points, leapfrogging the Mounties in the process.
With so many of the club’s injured players back on deck, coach Stacey Jones was able to field his strongest team so far this season, one which featured a heavy quotient of NRL experience. Yet it was the least experienced player in the side who sparked things up immediately. Standoff Ata Hingano (18), promoted from the club’s NYC side to make his NSW Cup debut, slipped through a sweet grubber into the Mounties’ in-goal for fullback Glen Fisiiahi to score in his comeback from a knee injury.
After a nip-and-tuck first 40 minutes, the Vodafone Warriors led 18-12 at the break through two more tries, the first especially memorable when David Bhana broke clear up the middle and shifted a great pass inside for hooker Nathaniel Roache to race 40 metres for a touchdown. Then right on halftime second rower Sione Lousi muscled his way over in the corner after heading down the short side. After converting the first two tries Lino, who would kick impeccably all day, spliced the posts with a brilliant conversion.
The second half became the Fusitu’a show as he nabbed three tries although he had plenty of help from men inside him, particularly so from Lino and prop Sam Lisone who both put him over with some special skills. Each time Lino put the ball between the posts to give the Vodafone Warriors a comfortable 36-18 lead.
There might have been more points from the Vodafone Warriors but instead the Mounties hit back to move within 12 points through second rower Mitch Barnett’s second try. When wing Gus Aiga also crossed it was 28-36 but mercifully for the home side Mitch Cornish was astray with the conversion attempt leaving the Vodafone Warriors eight points ahead and assured of a vital victory.
The win backs up their last outing, a 28-0 win over Wyong at Mount Smart Stadium on June 13, but the draw isn’t doing them any favours. Having found some momentum the Vodafone Warriors have a bye again next weekend, their second in three weeks.
Their next match is against the Illawarra Cutters at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday, May 12.
Match details | Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 36 (David Fusitu’a 3, Glen Fisiiahi, Nathaniel Roache, Sione Lousi tries; Mason Lino 6 goals).
Mounties 28 (Mitch Barnett 2, Mark Nicholls, Mitch Cornish, Gus Aiga tries; Mitch Cornish 4 conversions).
Halftime: 18-12 Vodafone Warriors.
Referee: Jamal Thompson.
Vodafone Warriors: Glen Fisiiahi; Viliami Kaveinga, David Fusitu’a, Dominique Peyroux, Matt Allwood; Ata Hingano, Mason Lino; Sam Lisone, Nathaniel Roache, Nathaniel Peteru; John Palavi (c), Sione Lousi; Sebastine Ikahihifo. Interchange: David Bhana, Sam Rapira, James Bell, Zac Tippins.