Spearheaded by standoff Eiden Ackland’s stunning hat-trick, the Vodafone Junior Warriors produced their best display of the year in beating the sixth-placed Sydney Roosters 40-20 in today’s 15th-round NYC encounter at Mount Smart Stadium.
Ackland was a late replacement, coming into a reshuffled side after experienced second rower-centre Marata Niukore had been called into the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side for yesterday's match against Newtown in Sydney.
Ackland, the son of former Vodafone Junior Warriors coach John Ackland, was brought into the halves with regular standoff Erin Clark moved to loose forward.
Coach Kelvin Wright was also without his two most experienced forwards prop Bunty Afoa and second rower Ofahiki Ogden who had been selected in the ISP side earlier in the week.
It left the Vodafone Junior Warriors with a small pack compared to their massive opponents but they were anything but deterred as they delivered an up-tempo performance to race to a decisive win. The margin would have been even more clear-cut but for two late Roosters tries reducing the score-line from 40-10 to 40-20.
After conceding an early try, the Vodafone Junior Warriors struck with the first two of Ackland’s tries to take a 12-10 lead into the break.
They stepped up to another level in the second half.
In the 42nd minute left wing Matt Faitotoa spectacularly plucked a Chanel Harris-Tavita Crossfield bomb for a superb try.
Playing with intensity and accuracy, the Vodafone Junior Warriors struck again seven minutes later through Chris Sio and then Clark in the 56th minute to jump to a 28-10 lead.
With a Junior Pauga touchdown and the enthusiastic Ackland’s third the home side charged to an impressive 40-10 advantage with more than 10 minutes still to play.
While the defence faltered to allow the Roosters two tries, the victory and the nature of it was a huge fillip for Vodafone Junior Warriors following losses in their last two outings against Brisbane and Newcastle.
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Junior Warriors 40 (Eiden Ackland 3, Matt Faitotoa, Chris Sio, Erin Clark, Junior Pauga tries; Kane Telea 6 conversions).
Sydney Roosters 20 (Kiah Cooper, Ryan King, Bernard Lewis, Bradley Mullins tries; Ryan King 2 conversions).
Halftime: 12-10 Vodafone Junior Warriors.
Referees: Chris Butler and Kasey Badger.
Vodafone Junior Warriors | Kane Telea; Lewis Soosemea, Junior Pauga, Alfred Smalley, Matt Faitiotoa; Eiden Ackland, Chanel Harris-Tavita; Kenese Kenese, Sheldon Pitama (c), Chris Sio; Joseph Vuna, Joseph Price; Erin Clark. Interchange: Mattais Heimuli, Tyler Mohi, Jerome Mamea, Cyrus Timo-Latu.