Mason Lino delivered the clutch play in the last minute to give the Vodafone Warriors a 15-14 win in their 16th-round Intrust Super Premiership clash against North Sydney at Mount Smart Stadium No 2 on Saturday.
The scores had been locked up at 6-6, 12-12 and 14-14 during the contest when Lino broke the deadlock with a well-taken field goal to give the Vodafone Warriors their 10th win of the season.
It lifted them to 24 points and took them back to the top of the table briefly until the Mounties reclaimed first with a win over Wyong later in the day.
The Vodafone Warriors were back home after two straight matches on the road, the second last week ending in a disappointing 6-38 loss to Newtown.
It was never going to be easy finding a way back into winning form. Conditions were challenging at best with steady rain falling throughout the day, ensuring roll the sleeves up fare for the forwards with the battle certain to be fought out in the middle of the park.
The Vodafone Warriors were on the board in the opening minutes, Lino scoring after Bears fullback Sitiveni Moceidreke spilled a kick.
With Lino converting his own try, the score remained 6-0 deep into the half when North Sydney levelled up from close range through hooker Brad Deitz.
Soon after halftime the Bears took the lead for the first time when interchange forward Jokatama Dokinavalu thundered over from 10 metres out to score under the bar for halfback Ekli Levido to convert.
The lead was short-lived as the Vodafone Warriors forced a goal-line dropout from the restart and eventually created a try on their left edge for centre Matt Allwood. Lino converted for 12-12.
A high tackle by interchange forward Pat Sipley enabled North Sydney to edge ahead through a Levido penalty before the Bears transgressed at the other end and Lino reciprocated with a penalty to lock the contest up again at 14-14.
With 15 minutes to go the Vodafone Warriors thought they’d made the critical play of the game when fullback Tomas Aoake went over steaming onto an inside pass but the ball was called forward.
The setback was exacerbated when the Vodafone Warriors then conceded a penalty, the Bears setting up at the other end hunting an opportunity to take the lead. They were repelled as the Vodafone Warriors produced an inspired stint on defence.
A field goal play appeared to be the most logical for either side if they could get into position.
The Bears did inside the last six minutes but great pressure from the Vodafone Warriors saw them spray it wide.
With three minutes to play the home side had time to grab victory.
First Lino’s nicely-weighted kick forced a goal-line dropout. From the repeat set the Vodafone Warriors worked themselves into position perfectly, setting up Lino for the one-point play to seal the result.
Match details | Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 15 (Mason Lino, Matt Allwood tries; Mason Lino 2 conversions, penalty, field goal).
North Sydney Bears 14 (Brad Deitz, Jokatama Dokinavalu tries; Eli Levido 2 conversions, penalty)
Referee: Chris McMillan.
Vodafone Warriors | Tomas Aoake; Viliami Kaveinga, Matt Allwood, Marata Niukore, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad; Mason Lino, Ata Hingano; James Gavet, Jazz Tevaga, Upu Poching; Ofahiki Ogden, Shaun Lane; John Palavi (c). Interchange: Jeff Robson, James Bell, Ali Lauitiiti, Patrick Sipley.