The Vodafone Junior Warriors overcame real adversity and a fast-finishing Melbourne side before completing a home-and-away double with their 36-28 win over the Storm in today’s eighth-round NYC match at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
Junior Pauga was forced off with injury after just 16 minutes, forcing coach Kelvin Wright to call on interchange back rower Joe Vuna to play the rest of the match on the wing.
And seven minutes later the Vodafone Junior Warriors were reduced to 15 available players after prop Bunty Afoa, their most experienced player, left the field after a head knock.
They survived the setbacks to record their third victory of the season – their first on the road – backing up a 30-16 triumph over the Storm at Mount Smart Stadium on March 20.
It has given them a 3-5 record to lift them to 11th on the ladder, just a win outside the top eight.
Today’s success was founded on a strong first half display when the Vodafone Junior Warriors scored four tries on their way to a 24-6 lead at the break. Koli Oneone, elevated from the bench to start in the centres, had a double while fullback Kane Telea and bench forward Kenese Kenese also crossed.
They played into a stiff wind in the second half but, after allowing the Storm to edge back to 12-24, a run of three unconverted tries through Lewis Soosemea, Erin Clark and Marata Niukore enabled them to jump out to a 36-12 advantage.
While Melbourne stormed home with 16 unanswered points it served only to reduce the margin of the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ victory.
Next up they face St George Illawarra at Mount Smart Stadium next Sunday. The 15th-placed Dragons meet the fifth-ranked Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium tomorrow.
Match details | Sunshine Coast Stadium, Kawana Waters
Melbourne Storm 28 (Angelo Leaupepe, Jaiyden Hunt, Scott Drinkwater, Brodie Croft, Cory Parker tries; Jesse Arthars 4 conversions).
Vodafone Junior Warriors 36 (Koli Oneone 2, Kane Telea, Kenese Kenese, Lewis Soosemea, Erin Clark, Marata Niukore tries; Kane Telea 3 conversions, penalty).
Halftime: 24-6 Vodafone Junior Warriors.
Referee: Belinda Sleeman.
Vodafone Junior Warriors | Kane Telea; Lewis Soosemea, Koli Oneone, Melino Fineranganofo, Junior Pauga; Erin Clark, Chanel Harris-Tavita; Bunty Afoa, Sheldon Pitama (c), Isaiah Papalii; Ofahiki Ogden, Marata Niukore; Chris Sio. Interchange: Keanu Dawson, Kenese Kenese, Joe Vuna, Eiden Ackland.