The long wait is over for the Vodafone Junior Warriors after they secured their first NYC home win since Anzac Day – but the drought breaker happened at their home away from home in Wellington rather than at Mount Smart Stadium.
It came as they delivered a six-try performance in accounting for St George Illawarra 26-18 in today’s 22nd-round encounter at Westpac Stadium.
Centres Semisi Tyrell and Junior Pauga both finished with doubles to ensure their side snapped a run on six straight home defeats.
The result has lifted the Vodafone Junior Warriors to fourth spot on 25 points ahead of Manly on points for and against although the Sydney Roosters and Canberra still have to play this weekend and they’re just a point back on 24.
After opening up too readily in conceding an early try, the Vodafone Junior Warriors produced some of their best football of the season with a four-try blitz between the 12th and 23rd minutes, three engineered through a potent right edge.
Mikaere Beattie, called into the side in the halves, held up a pass beautifully to put centre Junior Pauga in for his fifth try of the year.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors then came down their right again for big second rower Ofahiki Ogden to power over for his seventh try of the season before a dazzling last tackle try and the second of the match for Pauga.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors went to the air, slapped the ball back to keep the play going and then put another kick up. The Dragons didn’t contest, the Vodafone Junior Warriors flapped the ball back again and then shifted to the right, Pauga backing up on the inside to score.
The home side wasn’t done with its scoring burst. Making metres effortlessly up the middle, they went to their left this time where centre Semisi Tyrell finished off well for his first try of the day.
Trouble was the Vodafone Junior Warriors couldn’t buy a conversion with Beattie missing all four first half attempts but at least they went to the break in a solid position leading 16-4.
There was a flutter or two in the opening minutes of the second half when the Dragons brought it back to 10-16 with a converted try but the Vodafone Junior Warriors were quickly back in the ascendancy with left wing Levi McBirney and Tyrell both finishing well on the left.
At last one of the tries was converted – this time by Brad Abbey – and the lead was out to 26-10.
There were chances to build on it but instead the Dragons stayed in it with a third try to trail by 12 at 14-26 with plenty of time left to steal a draw at least.
In the end the Vodafone Junior Warriors were equal to the challenge. By the time they allowed a fourth try, victory – and a long overdue one at home – was theirs.
They were dominant up front with every one of the starting forwards topping 100 metres.
Match details | Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Vodafone Junior Warriors 26 (Junior Pauga 2, Semisi Tyrell 2, Ofahiki Ogden, Levi McBirney tries; Brad Abbey conversion).
St George Illawarra Dragons 18 (Leigh Higgins, Dee-Jay Harris, Jacob Host, Tom Carr tries; Ryan James 2 conversions).
Halftime: 16-4 Vodafone Junior Warriors.
Referees: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski and Shane Rehm.
Vodafone Junior Warriors: Brad Abbey; Levi McBirney, Junior Pauga, Semisi Tyrell, Paul Ulberg; Mikaere Beattie, Kauri Aupouri; Bunty Afoa, Erin Clark, Paul Tuli; Ofahiki Ogden, Matiu Love-Henry; Jazz Tevaga (c). Interchange: Tyler Mohi, Joseph Price, Fabien Kiri.