The Vodafone Warriors are poised to have both their New South Wales Cup and NYC teams in the finals for the third season running.
The club’s NSW Cup side secured a 2015 play-offs berth several weeks ago and has ultimately finished fourth in the regular season to earn a life when it starts its finals campaign against the Mounties next weekend.
Today the Kelvin Wright-coached Vodafone Junior Warriors slugged it out with Wests Tigers in an NYC match they led 16-10 inside the final few minutes before the Tigers levelled it up at 16-16 to give the Vodafone Junior Warriors their second draw of the year.
It’s set to be enough to secure a finals berth for the eighth straight season, enabling them to move to 26 points on the ladder as well as improving a spot to seventh, ahead of Canberra (also on 26) on points for and against. The Raiders face the Penrith Panthers tomorrow night.
They had gone into the round in eighth, one behind seventh-placed Canberra, a point ahead of Melbourne (ninth), two clear of Newcastle (10th)and three ahead of Canterbury-Bankstown (11th).
The landscape changed significantly following results earlier in the round with the Roosters (fifth) dropping their match 16-40 to Manly, Newcastle losing 18-52 to the Bulldogs and Melbourne going down 14-34 to North Queensland.
The upshot is the Vodafone Junior Warriors could finish the regular season as high as fifth if they go to 28 points with a win over the Bulldogs next week and other results fall their way.
Should they lose they should still be safe with a vastly superior points for and against record. It reads plus 80 while their final opponents the Bulldogs are on 24 points but with a minus 29 points for and against reading while the Knights, also on 24, have a points for and against record of minus 219.
No reference to points for and against would have been necessary if the Vodafone Junior Warriors had held on for victory in an intense battle against the sixth-placed Wests Tigers today.
Second rower Matiu Love-Henry’s 13th minute try - his 11th of the season - had them ahead 6-0 before the Tigers replied with two tries to lead 10-6 at halftime.
In the opening minute of the second half left wing Tomas Aoake produced his familiar acrobatics in finishing his 16th try in 18 games this season to have the game tied up at 10-10.
For the next 20 minutes the grind was on, the Vodafone Junior Warriors showing plenty of defensive steel to deny the home side before eventually coming up with some joy at the other end.
It came when the Tigers failed to defuse a bomb, centre Semisi Tyrell picking up the scraps and putting halfback Kauri Aupouri over for his first NYC try. The Tigers challenged the decision but it came back all clear, Hingano converting and giving his side a 16-10 lead with 18 minutes still to play.
There was plenty of defensive heat on them but the Vodafone Junior Warriors kept turning the Tigers away until the last few minutes when the home side scored and converted for a 16-16 draw.
Match details | Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Sydney
Wests Tigers 16 (Jacob Liddle, Marion Seve, Sione Alofi tries; Matt Woods conversion; Jeremy Marshall-King conversion).
Vodafone Junior Warriors 16 (Matiu Love-Henry, Tomas Aoake, Kauri Aupouri tries; Ata Hingano 2 conversions).
Halftime: 10-6 Tigers.
Referees: Adam Gee and Lawrie McDonell.
Vodafone Junior Warriors: Brad Abbey; Tomas Aoake, Marata Niukore, Semisi Tyrell, Paul Ulberg; Ata Hingano, Kauri Aupouri; Bunty Afoa, Erin Clark, Paul Tuli; Ofahiki Ogden, Matiu Love-Henry; Jazz Tevaga (c). Interchange: Casey Lafaele, Tualima Tualima, Amoni Tufui, Junior Pauga.