Despite a 22-32 loss to the resurgent North Sydney Bears, the Vodafone Warriors still have a share of the competition lead in the race for the New South Wales Cup minor premiership.
The Stacey Jones-coached side went into its 22nd-round clash against North Sydney equal top on 30 points with the Mounties and Wyong but all three teams lost while fourth-placed Penrith won to leave four sides back in a share of the lead again.
The Vodafone Warriors opened the scoring on Saturday when David Bhana, switched to hooker for the injured Nathaniel Roache, sneaked over early only for the home side to put together three tries to lead 16-4.
Centre Konrad Hurrell bulldozed over and Mason Lino converted to bring the margin back to 10-16 but the Bears then scored their fourth try of the half to lead 22-10 at the break.
They were out to 26-10 in the opening moments of the second half before prop Sam Rapira ensured the Vodafone Warriors stayed in contact with a try converted by Lino.
They needed to be next to score but North Sydney extended to 32-16.
The Vodafone Warriors had an extended period when they pressured the Bears without being able to extract a reward until wing Tomas Aoake scored his first NSW Cup try inside the last seven minutes to cut the margin to 22-32 where it would finish.
The Vodafone Warriors are on the road for the third straight week when they meet Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium next Saturday.
Match details | North Sydney Oval, Sydney
North Sydney Bears 32 (Kirisome Auva’a 2, Cody Walker 2, Joel Reddy, Ed Murphy tries; Darren Nicholls 4 conversions).
Vodafone Warriors 22 (David Bhana, Konrad Hurrell, Sam Rapira, Tomas Aoake tries; Mason Lino 3 conversions).
Halftime: 22-10 Bears.
Referee: Drew Oultram.
Vodafone Warriors: Glen Fisiiahi; Viliami Kaveinga, Matthew Allwood, Konrad Hurrell, Tomas Aoake; Ata Hingano, Mason Lino; Upu Poching, David Bhana, Sam Rapira; John Palavi (c), Marata Niukore; Sione Lousi. Interchange: James Bell, Levi Norton, Sione Feao, Tulsan Caird.