A second victory over Illawarra in the space of a week – powered by Ken Maumalo’s four-try haul – has given the Vodafone Warriors the outright lead in the New South Wales Cup’s minor premiership race.
They went into the 19th round level with Penrith on 26 points at the top of the table but now have sole ownership of top spot.
While they were holding on to beat the Cutters 24-22 – and claim their fourth straight win – the Panthers fell to a 10-24 loss to Canterbury-Bankstown.
Since a heavy home defeat by the Bulldogs in round 13, the Vodafone Warriors have collected 12 points in the last six rounds from four straight wins and two byes but they had to withstand a fast finishing Illawarra today to keep their run alive.
They’d been in control leading 24-6 entering the last 15 minutes only to be hit with three late Illawarra tries, the third of them four minutes from time to leave the home side just two points adrift. There the comeback ended as the Vodafone Warriors negotiated the dying stages to secure their 11th win of the season.
That they didn’t win by a more convincing margin was due to a total lack of success on the goal-kicking front with the Vodafone Warriors snaring six tries only for the usually dependable Mason Lino to fail with all six conversion attempts.
While Lino was astray his former Vodafone Junior Warriors team-mate Maumalo was in sizzling try-scoring touch with two four pointers in each half to give him and a total of eight in seven NSW Cup games this season.
The Vodafone Warriors scored first through Maumalo, had a second from fullback Glen Fisiiahi – five tries in five games so far – and another from Maumalo to lead 12-6 at halftime.
Three unanswered tries in the second half through Dominique Peyroux and Maumalo’s third and fourth had the Vodafone Warriors 18 points clear before the Cutters hit back.
The Vodafone Warriors had a notable line-up change for the match with Konrad Hurrell coming back from a shoulder injury.
Match details | WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Vodafone Warriors 24 (Ken Maumalo 4, Glen Fisiiahi, Dominique Peyroux tries).
Illawarra Cutters 22 (Eli Roberts, Sam Coster, Junior Vaivai, Chris Lewis tries; Blake Wallace 3 conversions).
Halftime: 12-6 Vodafone Warriors.
Referee: Jeff Hartup.
Vodafone Warriors: Glen Fisiiahi; Ken Maumalo, Konrad Hurrell, Matt Allwood, Viliami Kaveinga; Ata Hingano, Mason Lino; Daniel Palavi, Nathaniel Roache, Sam Lisone; John Palavi (c), Dominique Peyroux; David Bhana. Interchange: Upu Poching, James Bell, Paki Afu, Zac Tippins.