The Vodafone Warriors backed up a brilliant three-try opening spell with four high-quality second half tries to stun the Brisbane Broncos 36-18 in Saturday night's 13th-round NRL clash at Mount Smart Stadium.
After leading 18-6 at the break, tries to David Fusitu'a and Ryan Hoffman in the first four minutes of the second half gave the home side the best opening imaginable to the second 40 minutes.
The Broncos didn't flinch, cutting the 22-point deficit to 16 with a 57th-minute Jordan Kahu try as he tracked down Ben Hunt grubber - but then the home side found the turbos with two tries in the space of three minutes.
Fusitu'a had his second after nice hands to the right and then Solomone Kata bulldozed his way over for his ninth try on a night when he emphatically got the better of his opposite James Roberts.
If the Vodafone Warriors had been down on confidence it came flooding back in bucketloads in this performance.
After winning the toss, they had opted to kick-off giving them the chance to aim up at the Broncos straightaway.
They won the first battle and came back at Brisbane with their first set in possession, the returning Manu Vatuvei having an early run to put him back in the mood in his first NRL outing since April 25.
Penalties followed giving the Vodafone Warriors sustained possession and field position but the well-organised Broncos were equal to it, resisting all the home side threw at them.
Then another penalty had the Vodafone Warriors back on attack and going to the left where Thomas Leuluai linked with Shaun Johnson who had swept around from his customary spot on the right. Johnson produced an outrageous dummy, fooling Sam Thaiday and Hunt to score his seventh try of the season. His conversion had the home side 6-0 up after eight minutes.
If that was skill right there better still came in the 15th minute.
Vatuvei made a terrific tough run out of defence and Luke got off the back of his quick play the ball to spear through from dummy half, finding Kata pushing up in support.
He made 30 metres and then the ball went right, Johnson getting on the outside, punching through a kick and getting the bounce as he chased through before off-loading to second rower Bodene Thompson who ran it around towards the posts to finish off a wonderful try. With Johnson’s conversion the Vodafone Warriors had a dream-like 12-0 start.
Five minutes later it became positively exceptional. Luke pushed through a grubber, it deflected slightly off the right-hand upright and prop Jacob Lillyman could scarcely believe his luck as he dropped on the ball for just his sixth try in his 157th appearance for the club. More than that, it was his first try in 78 games since the opening round of the 2013 season.
With Johnson’s conversion the lead was 18-0 after only 20 minutes.
There was a chance of more still as the Vodafone Warriors attacked again but Ryan Hoffman couldn’t grasp a difficult pass from Thomas Leuluai as pressure was building.
It gave the Broncos respite at last and they didn’t waste it, creating a try for second rower Alex Glenn to cut the margin to 18-6.
Soon after another Vodafone Warriors try-scoring opportunity was created but then missed as a cruel bounce from a Johnson grubber evaded Thompson on the line.
With halftime approaching the Broncos had two more chances to come back at the Vodafone Warriors.
Anthony Milford imposed himself each time, breaking clear and putting Jack Reed over – only Milford’s pass was clearly forward and was correctly called.
In the final seconds of the half the Vodafone Warriors turned possession over and the Broncos seized on the opportunity, going to their left where Milford was again the conductor, shifting inside for fullback Darius Boyd to race away.
Back on the 30-metre mark, though, referee Henry Perenara had ruled the inside ball forward on a touch judge’s call – and replays showed it was. The Broncos were left to fume about it but the call was correct enabling the Vodafone Warriors to go to halftime 12 points ahead. It might have been 14 if they had opted for two points on offer from a penalty.
They immediately put that theory to bed with the Fusitu'a and Hoffman tries in the opening moments of the second half, ensuring the Vodafone Warriors didn't give Brisbane a way back into the contest.
They dominated possession completing 29 of 35 sets (83 per cent) while the Broncos managed just 20 from 32 (63 per cent). They took the line breaks by a staggering 10-4, missed only 16 tackles to Brisbane's 34, made 1589 metres to 1200 and came up with only six errors to 10.
Every win over Brisbane is memorable. This one was especially so, up on another level, the 11 in 15 games against the Broncos at Mount Smart Stadium since beating them for the first time in 2001.
With five wins from 12 matches, the Vodafone Warriors have given their season renewed life, in the process giving Brisbane its third straight loss.
What a night to remember. Everyone at the ground always will.
Match details | Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 36 (David Fusitu'a 2, Shaun Johnson, Bodene Thompson, Jacob Lillyman, Ryan Hoffman, Solomone Kata tries; Shaun Johnson 4 conversions).
Brisbane Broncos 18 (Alex Glenn, Jordan Kahu, Tevita Pangai Junior tries; Corey Parker 3 conversions).
Halftime: 18-6 Vodafone Warriors.
Referees: Henry Perenara and Chris James.
Vodafone Warriors | Tuimoala Lolohea; David Fusitu'a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Manu Vatuvei; Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson; Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Albert Vete; Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman (c); Simon Mannering. Interchange: Nathaniel Roache, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, Charlie Gubb.