Fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scored a stunning golden point extra-time try against his old Sydney Roosters club to give the Vodafone Warriors a breathtaking 32-28 victory in today's fifth-round clash at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford.
After regulation time had ended with the sides locked up 28-28, the Roosters completed the first set safely but that's as far as it went before this golden point match ended emphatically and not through the more familiar field goal fare.
Right wing Tuimoala Lolohea climbed to snare Jackson Hastings' last tackle kick near his own 20, shook off a couple of defenders and then carved up the centre of the field where he linked up with none other than ex-Rooster Tuivasa-Sheck.
He found the turbos and blasted away 50 metres for not only his first try for his new club but a critical one to give the Vodafone Warriors their second win on five starts this season.
It was the end this dazzling contest deserved after Johnson's 74th-minute penalty had tied it up. Johnson had late field goal attempts to win the game which were astray - one which went just under the bar - to ensure golden point was on its way.
Earlier the Vodafone Warriors were on the back foot from the kick-off when they conceded a penalty after just two tackles but they defended the repeat set well, Lolohea defusing a last-tackle kick.
They weren't as successful holding out the Roosters when they rolled downfield a minute later.
Hastings bombed to the right, Shaun Kenny-Dowall batting it back for Blake Ferguson to gather and push through a grubber from close range. Kenny-Dowall picked up and scored wide out, Hastings converting for a 6-0 lead.
In the Vodafone Warriors' next possession after the restart, Johnson teased the Roosters running on the last and keeping the ball alive.
When the Vodafone Warriors had their first real good ball opportunity after a penalty they failed to complete the set. Instead the Roosters, benefiting from more penalties, swept back onto attack, opting for two points to go 8-0 ahead after 12 minutes.
On the 15-minute mark the Vodafone Warriors forced an error out of former player Sio Siua Taukeiaho, giving them a shot. They were on song this time, coming to the left where Jeff Robson linked with Tuivasa-Sheck.
His twinkle toes enabled him to evade the rushing defence and he then flung out a wide ball to an unmarked Manu Vatuvei on the touchline, the big man finishing off for his second try of the season and the 148th of his career. Johnson was astray with the conversion attempt leaving the Vodafone Warriors four points behind 4-8 after 18 minutes.
They built pressure almost immediately, finishing a set with a Johnson grubber forcing a goal-line dropout and another set on attack. A try was in the offing as Ryan Hoffman surged onto a Robson grubber only to be held off the ball by Aidan Guerra as he hunted it down. The bunker was called into action looking at the possibility of a penalty try but opted for a penalty instead; it seemed harsh.
The Vodafone Warriors weren't helping their cause with errors, spilling the ball in each of their next two sets. Fortunately the Roosters were making mistakes, too.
In the 27th minute the Vodafone Warriors had the Roosters stretched on a repeat set from another penalty. They probed right, Johnson skipping across on the short side trying for a repeat of his audacious effort against the Knights last week.
When he was shut down the Vodafone Warriors swept to the left, Hoffman driving and going close. From a quick play the ball the explosive Solomone Kata burrowed low from dummy half to score his fifth try of the year. Johnson couldn't convert again, leaving the score locked up at 8-8 after 28 minutes.
Three minutes later the Vodafone Warriors had the lead.
From another quick play the ball, this one from Matulino, Issac Luke - finding his form - served it up for 150-game celebration man Jacob Lillyman who showed silky skills to pop a pass for Johnson on his left shoulder. The halfback shot through a huge hole for his 48th career try, added the conversion and it was 14-8.
In the 34th minute they were back at it again, releasing Lolohea on the right edge. He hooked in a crossfield kick with Vodafone Warriors players lining up inside chasing it down, Johnson collecting for a superb try (his 49th) which he again converted to stretch the lead to 20-8.
More was in the offing as Johnson and Tuivasa-Sheck tried to connect only for the opportunity to come unstuck. It gave the Roosters a chance to hit back and they did.
A bomb to the right went up, Vatuvei and Kenny-Dowall contested it, the ball bouncing around off fingertips before Kenny-Dowall grasped it and planted it. It was referred to the bunker, the review failing to find a Kenny-Dowall knock-on and awarding him his second try of the afternoon. Hastings converted to close the scoreline to 20-14 in the visitors' favour at halftime.
The Kenny-Dowall try was a negative end to a half in which the Vodafone Warriors had reorganised themselves well after their uncertain start.
They needed a solid start to the second term but instead conceded an early penalty which put the Roosters back on attack. The Vodafone Warriors were cool, herding a Hastings kick dead to earn a seven-tackle set restarting on the 20 but the set faltered with an error at the other end of the field.
The Roosters bombed to their right again looking for more joy for Kenny-Dowall but he knocked on.
The Vodafone Warriors were shaping well, Robson shooting through but referee Dave Munro penalised the them for obstruction.
The Roosters not only held on but held the Vodafone Warriors out and then conjured up twin strikes, first through back rower Taukeiaho which levelled it up 20-20 with Hastings' conversion.
The restart couldn't have been worse for the Vodafone Warriors, Mitchell Aubusson breaking clear and going all the way on an angled run to the corner. Hastings piloted another superb conversion to have the Roosters 26-20 ahead with 12 points in the space of 12 minutes.
In what was becoming an absolute rock 'n' roll contest, Roosters prop Dylan Napa knocked on from the restart and from the resulting goal-line dropout the Vodafone Warriors were back in business.
Jumping out of dummy half the rejuvenated Luke linked with Robson and Tuivasa-Sheck with Kata and Vatuvei the threats outside them. Kata dummied and scored his second of the match, Johnson brilliant with the conversion to have it all tied up 26-26.
Then Hastings missed a penalty before kicking one for a 28-26 lead after 63 minutes, Johnson reciprocating to have it tied up again at 28-28 inside the final six minutes. The Vodafone Warriors set up for field goals but Johnson wasn't able to splice the posts while the Roosters also failed at the other end.
And so to golden point and to the remarkable finish delivered by Lolohea and Tuivasa-Sheck.
The Vodafone Warriors prevailed despite a completion rate of just 66 per cent compared to the Roosters’ 77 per cent but they made more metres overall – 1450 to 1196 – and had a 7-3 advantage in line breaks.
In his 150th game for the club, Lillyman was exceptional, carrying the ball 159 metres from 20 runs while also making 31 tackles (not forgetting his try assist for Johnson’s first touchdown). Fellow prop Ben Matulino was impressive again, too, with 124 metres from 15 runs and 36 tackles while Luke made a huge statement throughout with 14 runs, 124 metres, five tackle breaks and 31 tackles. Second rower Simon Mannering topped the team’s tackle count again with 39 and made almost 100 metres as well.
Among the backs the two players who combined to win the game both made big contributions. Apart from his gilt-edged try, Tuivasa-Sheck had 150 metres from 16 runs, two try assists (for Vatuvei and Kata’s second), three tackle breaks and three line break assists. Lolohea inspired the match-winner and came up with 125 metres from 12 runs, two try assists (for Tuivasa-Sheck and Johnson’s second) and two line breaks.
Match details | Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Sydney Roosters 28 (Shaun Kenny-Dowall 2, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Mitchell Aubussion tries; Jackson Hastings 4 conversions, 2 penalties).
Vodafone Warriors 32 (Shaun Johnson 2, Solomone Kata 2, Manu Vatuvei, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tries; Shaun Johnson 3 conversions, penalty).
Halftime: 20-14 Vodafone Warriors.
Referees: Matt Cecchin and Dave Munro.
Vodafone Warriors | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck; Tuimoala Lolohea, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Manu Vatuvei; Jeff Robson, Shaun Johnson; Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino; Simon Mannering, Ryan Hoffman (c); Albert Vete. Interchange: Jazz Tevaga, Charlie Gubb, Sam Lisone, Konrad Hurrell.