The Vodafone Junior Warriors’ run of home losses has extended to six after a tight 20-22 defeat by Cronulla in Saturday’s 21st-round NYC clash at Mount Smart Stadium.
They fell just short of snatching a late match-winner resulting in them slipping a spot to sixth on the table.
The Sharks went into the encounter lying 13th on the table but they came up with the first points when a chip and chase produced a try for wing Josh Addo-Carr in the 15th minute.
The response from the Vodafone Junior Warriors was swift with hooker Casey Lafaele going from dummy half, spinning and get the ball down for his team’s opening try. Debutant Kauri Aupouri converted to lock it up 6-6 after 21 minutes.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors forced a goal-line drop out after a superb set from the restart and struck quickly from the repeat possession. Again it was the impressive rookie Lafaele who carved through easily for his third try in three games but Aupouri’s conversion was astray.
Just when it looked like the home side would go to the break 10-6 up the defence opened up for Cronulla halfback Bradley Deitz to score between the posts enabled the Sharks to go to halftime 12-10 ahead.
Two minutes into the second half the Vodafone Junior Warriors were back in front with fullback Brad Abbey slicing through and Aupouri converting for a 16-12 lead but the Sharks reacted with a try of their own just a few minutes later to go ahead 18-16.
The arm wrestle was on for the best part of 20 minutes before Cronulla scored in the 65th minute to lead 22-16.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors had opportunities but didn’t profit until the 76th minute when Abbey scored his second. The chance of a draw at least was lost when the conversion attempt from a handy angle went wide.
While the loss saw the Vodafone Junior Warriors slipping to sixth, the race for a spot in the top four is still on. They’re still just a point out of fourth spot.
Match details | Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Junior Warriors 20 (Casey Lafaele 2, Brad Abbey 2 tries; Kauri Aupouri 2 conversions).
Cronulla Sharks 22 (Josh Addo-Carr, Bradley Deitz, Jaiden Brown, Curtis Scott tries; Jaiden Brown 2 conversions; Jaden Clarke conversion).
Halftime: 12-10 Sharks.
Referees: Phil Henderson and Shane Rehm.
Vodafone Junior Warriors: Brad Abbey; Lewis Soosemea, Junior Pauga, Semisi Tyrell, Paul Ulberg; Kauri Aupouri, Erin Clark; Bunty Afoa (c), Casey Lafaele, Paul Tuli; Ofahiki Ogden, Matiu Love-Henry; Jazz Tevaga (c). Interchange: Chris Sio, Tualima Tualima, Wesley Tauti, Tyrone Nathan.