A Vodafone Warriors Academy selection recovered from a 0-12 deficit to pile on 11 tries in beating the Northern Swords Academy 56-16 in a trial at Toll Stadium in Whangarei today.
The match showcased the depth of talent coming through the Vodafone Warriors’ development system – although the experience didn’t start well as the Swords made a smart start with two converted tries inside the first eight minutes.
It took the best part of 15 minutes before the Vodafone Warriors Academy side was able to enjoy time in the Northern Swords’ territory. It brought immediate joy, too, with a shift right giving centre Preston Riki – signed from Northland – an easy passage to the line.
Fullback Mark Graham supported on the inside, surging through the line from 15 metres out for the Vodafone Warriors’ second try. Dylan Tavita converted to cut the margin to 10-12.
It wasn’t until after halftime that the Vodafone Warriors hit the lead for the first time, working the short side for Cameron Iopu to score but Tavita couldn’t convert from a handy angle leaving his side 14-12 ahead.
Quick hands to the left gave wing Kaleb Trask a chance wide out and he got the ball down superbly to stretch the advantage to 18-12 before a slick double around created space for Iopu to score his second try. Graham took over the kicking duties but his first attempt glanced away off the near upright to leave the Vodafone Warriors with a 22-12 lead.
Trask made it three tries in quick succession and a personal double, popping up on the right edge where he speared through on the back of some more quality ball movement. A third kicker was tried and Iopu struck the ball superbly from wide out to have the Vodafone Warriors comfortably in front 28-12.
Romia Roi took multiple defenders over the line with him for the visitors’ seventh try, Tavita back with the kicking role converting for a 34-12 lead after three quarters.
John Latu powered through Swords defenders from close range for the Vodafone Warriors’ eight try.
Down 12-40, the Swords at last enjoyed some respite when Wiremu Greig intercepted and scampered 35 metres to score.
Centre Riki scored his second of the day giving the Vodafone Warriors a shot at 50 points. It duly came up when Naitoa Kairau latched onto a loose ball from an attacking kick and he grabbed a second try right on fulltime.
Northern Swords Academy 16.
Vodafone Warriors Academy 50 (Kaleb Trask 2, Preston Riki 2, Cameron Iopu 2, Nitoa Kairau 2, Mark Graham, John Latu, Romia Roy tries; Cameron Iopu 3 conversions; Dylan Tavita 2 conversions; Kaleb Trask conversion).