Tomas Aoake’s first half hat-trick has helped the Vodafone Warriors to a fifth straight win as well as reclaiming second spot on the Intrust Super Premiership points table today.
They had banked consecutive wins over North Sydney, Newcastle, Canterbury-Bankstown and Penrith in their previous four outings and were widely favoured to add 10th-placed Manly to the winning streak in today’s 11th-round encounter at Mount Smart Stadium #2.
Ultimately the Vodafone Warriors finished the job with a 42-30 victory which leaves them second on points for and against.
On a day when the weather conditions varied markedly between bright sunshine, wind and squalls, the home side began confidently and finished well but there were some tense passages in between.
Aoake delivered an impressive individual highlight feeding off some slick service inside leaving his imprint in the identical spot wide out in the right-hand corner three times in the first half.
Six of the Vodafone Warriors' tries including a double for second rower Shaun Lane were engineered through their potent right edge with the other two close-to-the-line efforts from hooker Nathaniel Roache and middle forward Toafofoa Sipley.
It was also a match which featured two long injury stoppages, one for Vodafone Warriors prop Charlie Gubb who was taken off on a stretcher after a head knock in the first half.
The early signs before Gubb’s forced exit had been encouraging when the Vodafone Warriors created the first two of their right side tries in the opening nine minutes.
In just the third minute, fullback Henare Wells hit Aoake with a long ball and he finished expertly.
No conversion then but the 4-0 lead became 10-0 six minutes later.
After a strong Ken Maumalo carry there was a lengthy stoppage for an injury to Manly's Dylan Kelly but when the set resumed the Vodafone Warriors were straight back with halfback Mason Lino creating a big hole for Lane to run through.
An Addin Fonua-Blake try brought Manly back into it before the Vodafone Warriors went further ahead again with a superb shift to a big right, Lino going out the back behind Lane where Wells linked and shipped another sweet long pass for Aoake to squeeze in at the corner.
Gubb’s injury checked the Vodafone Warriors’ momentum with Manly seizing the opening by laying on two tries through loose forward Liam Knight and second rower Nathan Green to edge ahead 14-12 after 32 minutes.
It didn’t last long as the Vodafone Warriors composed themselves, settled back into the grind and finished the half by going right again, nice hands and Wells once more with the final transfer for Aoake’s third. Lino’s conversion made it 20-18 at the break.
A squall swept down the ground as the second half began, the Vodafone Warriors trucking up into it undeterred and producing a similar start to the first half.
First hooker Roache poached a try from dummy half and then the big man Sipley powered over from close range. With both tries scored around the posts, Lino took the lead out to 32-18.
It seemed it would be the prelude to more points to follow but instead Manly thundered back with two tries in quick succession to close to 30-32.
Just when there was a sense more points may follow for Manly, the Vodafone Warriors became a galvanised unit again, coming up with key plays to repel the visitors and then turn the defensive work into profit at the other end with tries to Lane and centre Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
Job done for coach Stacey Jones and his players although there were concerns with the middle stages of the match when Manly was allowed to come back into it.
The Vodafone Warriors have another bye next week before hosting Wentworthville in Auckland on June 4.
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 42 (Tomas Aoake 3, Shaun Lane 2, Nathaniel Roache, Toafofoa Sipley, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad tries; Mason Lino 5 conversions).
Manly Sea Eagles 30 (Liam Knight 2, Nathan Green 2, Addin Fonua-Blake tries; Hugh Pratt 5 conversions).
Halftime: 20-18 Vodafone Warriors.
Referee: Jamal Thompson.
Vodafone Warriors | Henare Wells; Tomas Aoake; James Bell, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Manu Vatuvei; Ata Hingano, Mason Lino; Albert Vete, Nathaniel Roache, Charlie Gubb; Ligi Sao, Shaun Lane; Toafofoa Sipley. Interchange: Ali Lauitiiti, Upu Poching, Semisi Tyrell, Paul Tuli.