An inspirational defensive performance was the catalyst for the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ impressive 20-4 win over Canberra in their 11th-round NYC clash at Mount Smart Stadium #2 today.
While they scored four tries to one, it was the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ resolute goal-line defence and scramble that set up the victory.
Both sides were coming off heavy back-to-back defeats to the same sides in the last two rounds.
The home side had lost 0-50 to St George Illawarra and 10-74 to Penrith while the Raiders had gone down 10-74 to the Panthers and 6-44 to the Dragons. The focus for both sides was obviously on making marked improvements in their defence.
The home side was on the board inside the opening 10 minutes when right wing Lewis Soosemea was put over in the corner, the try not converted.
Midway through the spell the Vodafone Junior Warriors hit their right edge again, big centre Marata Niukore taking defenders with him as he powered across. Kane Telea faced another testing conversion attempt from wide out on the right but judged the blustery wind beautifully to take the lead out to 10-0.
Both sides had would-be tries called back for forward passes, the second of them close to halftime denying the Vodafone Junior Warriors the chance to stretch out to a 16-0 lead.
The feature of their first half effort, though, had been their defensive effort, especially on their own line as they worked cohesively to stop the Raiders time and again. Whether Canberra went up the middle or through its edges, the Vodafone Junior Warriors kept turning up to keep their line intact.
Playing into the wind in the second half, they again faced a rigorous defensive assignment against a big Canberra side.
They maintained their first half standards exceptionally well the Raiders unable to find a way through despite dominating field position.
Ultimately their only try came through an angled grubber kick in behind the defensive line with wing Kody Parsons chasing it down for the four-pointer.
With a now slender 10-4 lead, the Vodafone Junior Warriors were in a delicately-balanced position but they still had their defence working as they defused and stopped numerous assaults.
After doing so once again they then converted the defensive success into points by constructing a superb set which took them the length of the field before eventually finishing with Niukore’s second try.
With 10 minutes left they had a 10-point buffer and then finished the job when left wing Junior Pauga stepped through to score wide out.
Mount Smart Stadium #2, Auckland
Vodafone Junior Warriors 20 (Marata Niukore 2, Lewis Soosemea, Junior Pauga tries; Kane Telea 2 conversions).
Canberra Raiders 4 (Kody Parsons try).
Halftime: 10-0 Vodafone Junior Warriors.
Referee: Liam Nicholls.
Vodafone Junior Warriors | Kane Telea; Lewis Soosemea, Matt Faitiotoa, Marata Niukore, Junior Pauga; Erin Clark, Chanel Harris-Tavita; Bunty Afoa, Sheldon Pitama (c), Kenese Kenese; Ofahiki Ogden, Joseph Price; Chris Sio. Interchange: Mattais Heimuli, Joseph Vuna, Jerome Mamea, Cyrus Timo-Latu.