Bunty Afoa (R of the Junior Warriors faces Ryan Fletcher of the Junior Dragons during the NRL Rugby League Holden Cup match between the Junior Warriors & Junior Dragons at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday the 8th August 2015. Copyright Photo

NYC ROUND #23 | v Penrith

After ending a run of home defeats last week the Vodafone Junior Warriors face the most demanding assignment of their season so far when they meet Penrith in Saturday’s 23rd-round NYC clash at Pepper Stadium (3.15pm kick-off local time; 5.15pm NZT).

The Panthers lead the minor premiership race on 38 points having won 14 of their last 15 games including their last five on end against South Sydney (22-8), Melbourne (28-14), Canberra (64-8), South Sydney (34-10) and Parramatta (36-12).

Featuring consistently has been a halfback with the familiar name of Cleary – Nathan, son of former Vodafone Warriors fullback and coach Ivan Cleary.

While the Panthers have been in imposing form the Vodafone Junior Warriors have won just two of their last six matches. Their 26-18 win over St George Illawarra last week was their first home success since Anzac Day (although the win was achieved in Wellington rather than at their home ground Mount Smart Stadium). They’ve fared better on the road winning their last four matches in Australia against Parramatta, South Sydney, Gold Coast and the Sydney Roosters.

On the back of last week’s victory over the Dragons, coach Kelvin Wright has had the rare experience of being able to name an unchanged starting line-up although he is still without many of his most experienced players; Ata Hingano, Marata Niukore and Tomas Aoake are all in the club’s New South Wales Cup side while hooker Nathan Roache and prop Toafofoa Sipley suffered season-ending injuries while playing for the NSW Cup side.

Fullback Brad Abbey and prop Bunty Afoa are in sight of reaching the 50-game milestone in the NYC. They’ll both play their 47th game this week leaving them on track to play their 50th match in the final round of the regular season.

With their victory last week the Vodafone Junior Warriors are sixth only one point out of the top four but only three points clear of eighth place.

 

VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS v PENRITH PANTHERS

Pepper Stadium, Penrith

3.15pm, Saturday, August 15

Referee: Peter Gough

 

VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS

1 BRAD ABBEY

2 LEVI McBIRNEY

3 JUNIOR PAUGA

4 SEMISI TYRELL

5 PAUL ULBERG

6 MIKAERE BEATTIE

7 KAURI AUPOURI

8 BUNTY AFOA

9 ERIN CLARK

10 PAUL TULI

11 OFAHIKI OGDEN

12 MATIU LOVE-HENRY

13 JAZZ TEVAGA

Interchange:

14 TYLER MOHI

15 TUALIMA TUALIMA

16 AMONI TUFUI

17 JAMES MAFI

18 CASEY LAFAELE

COACH: KELVIN WRIGHT