Nothing but a win over Brisbane will be in the Vodafone Warriors’ thinking but they could still advance to the last eight even if they lose their final Hunua Pool match at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines tomorrow.
At the very least they’ll know exactly what is needed when their match against the Broncos kicks off at 12.40pm.
In the first of the games in the pool tomorrow the Sea Eagles meet the Bulldogs at 12.15pm; a third Manly victory will see the Vodafone Warriors joining them in the quarter-finals even if they have a close loss to Brisbane.
As it stands after the first two rounds Manly leads the pool with two wins, the Vodafone Warriors and Canterbury-Bankstown have a win and a loss and the Broncos are winless.
The Vodafone Warriors had reason to be disappointed with not only the outcome of their second match against Manly – a 12-15 loss – but the manner in which it came about after surrendering a healthy 12-4 lead in the second half. Twice errors hurt them, allowing the Sea Eagles to edge back to 8-12 and then seal the match with a five-point try.
The result was galling for the legion of fans riding the Vodafone Warriors and equally frustrating for the players and staff when they were so close to securing a quarter-final spot without needing to be concerned with their final pool game.
The performance followed a sizzling second half display in their first-up 34-8 demolition of the Bulldogs, a result which has ensured the Vodafone Warriors are reasonably placed despite being beaten by Manly.
That’s because their points for and against differential of plus 23 points is comfortably the best in the pool. Manly’s differential is a modest plus six while the Bulldogs are on minus 24 and the Broncos minus five.
Vodafone Warriors v Canterbury-Bankstown
The Vodafone Warriors’ first match of the 2016 edition of the Auckland NRL Nines was always going to be about just one man – Shaun Johnson – and he didn’t disappoint.
His renowned step was there to see as he sparked a hot five-tries-to-none second half display to put his side on the way to a 34-8 win over the Bulldogs.
With doubles to Solomone Kata and Nathaniel Roache – playing his first Nines match – the home side had the partisan crowd in raptures striking back from a 0-8 deficit close to halftime.
Roache’s first try seconds from the end of the first half was the catalyst for the turnaround.
After going to the break 6-8 down, the Vodafone Warriors struck immediately in the second term with newcomer Jeff Robson going over and Johnson converting to give his side a 12-8 lead.
The Vodafone Warriors never looked back from there, working their way around the bigger Canterbury-Bankstown players.
First it was Johnson with a lethal stepping carve to the left, linking with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck who also jinked this way and that, creating hesitation and then shipping a pass wide for Kata to score in the corner.
The lead became 20-8 with Kata’s second touchdown before Roache had his brace when he splashed down in the five-point try zone between the posts.
At 27-8 the Vodafone Warriors still weren’t done.
Johnson intercepted a Tony Williams off load and cruised to the line, calmly stepping inside the last defender to grab another five-pointer.
It was the Vodafone Warriors’ biggest Nines victory.
Vodafone Warriors 34 (Solomone Kata 2, Nathaniel Roache 2, Jeff Robson, Shaun Johnson tries; Johnson 4 conversions).
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 8 (Tyrone Phillips, Shaun Lane tries).
Halftime: 8-6 Bulldogs
Vodafone Warriors v Manly
The Vodafone Warriors didn’t open as well as they wanted, knocking on from the kick-off and conceding an early try.
However, the rest of the first half was very much a case of the Vodafone Warriors calling the tune, Johnson and Tuivasa-Sheck combining sweetly on the right to give Ken Maumalo an overlap to score.
Soon after Ata Hingano, playing his first Nines match, cleverly regathered a Ryan Hoffman off load after it ricocheted off his shoulder to score. Two Johnson conversions had the Vodafone Warriors leading 12-4 at halftime.
Just when they were again looking to assert themselves, the they had their momentum checked when the game was held up for several minutes after Manly captain Jake Trbojevic was concussed getting in the way of a rampaging Konrad Hurrell. Trbojevic was stretchered off and Hurrell put on report.
Hurrell was later cleared of any wrongdoing but the outcome of the event on the field proved costly. With a penalty and field position, the Sea Eagles were able to change the course of the match and the flow of possession.
The Vodafone Warriors didn’t help themselves by twice turning the ball over enabling Tom Trbojevic to race away for Manly’s second try and then Matt Parcell delivered a five pointer off a Feleti Mateo grubber to steal victory.
Vodafone Warriors 12 (Ken Maumalo, Ata Hingano tries; Shaun Johnson 2 conversions).
Manly Sea Eagles 15 (Brayden Wiliame, Tom Trbojevic, Matt Parcell tries; Tom Trbojevic conversion).
Halftime: 12-4 Vodafone Warriors.
Day one wrap
Melbourne, Manly and Cronulla were the only teams to come through the first day with two wins while the Roosters, Brisbane and St George Illawarra all lost both games.
Waiheke Pool | South Sydney 14, Sydney Roosters 13; Melbourne 14, Parramatta 4; Parramatta 14, Roosters 11; Melbourne 18, Rabbitohs 12.
Rangitoto Pool | North Queensland 28, Newcastle 12; Penrith 23, Wests Tigers 7; Newcastle 15, Penrith 14; Wests Tigers 13, North Queensland 12.
Hunua Pool | Vodafone Warriors 34, Canterbury-Bankstown 8; Manly 11, Brisbane 8; Manly 15, Vodafone Warriors 12; Canterbury-Bankstown 15, Brisbane 12.
Piha Pool | Canberra 28, St George Illawarra 20; Cronulla 23, Gold Coast 12; Cronulla 17, St George Illawarra 8; Gold Coast 26, Canberra 15.