Loose forward Jazz Tevaga was one of the Vodafone Warriors' two try scorers in their hard-earned ISP win over Illawarra on Saturday. Image | www.photosport.nz

With a line-up including seven NYC-eligible players, the Vodafone Warriors have muscled up to take out a tense contest 12-8 over competition leader Illawarra in today’s 18th-round Intrust Super Premiership clash at Mount Smart Stadium #2.

The result created a three-way tie on 26 points at the top of the table with the Vodafone Warriors joining Illawarra and the Mounties following their 11th win of the season.

It lasted only a few hours, though, with the Mounties taking the competition lead outright after their 33-22 win over Newcastle.

It was the third time in four weeks that the Vodafone Warriors had been involved in an arm wrestle after beating Newcastle 34-32, losing to Wests Tigers 16-18 and now taking out a low-scoring affair by just four points.

It was a terrific result for a young Vodafone Warriors side against in-form Illawarra.

Coach Stacey Jones had two more NYC players in his line-up with centre Junior Pauga and wing Lewis Soosemea making their ISP debuts alongside other NYC-eligible players Ata Hingano, Nathaniel Roache, Bunty Afoa, Ofahiki Ogden and Erin Clark. Roache and Afoa have both made their NRL debuts this season, Afoa called up for his first match just last week.

It was clear from the outset that this would be a a grinding affair with neither side able to break through in the opening quarter although the Vodafone Warriors applied ample goal-line heat in the early stages.

It was the 23rd minute before the deadlock was broken with Dunamis Lui going across for a try Levi Dodd converted.

The Vodafone Warriors returned serve when loose forward Jazz Tevaga went over from close range following a great break by Hingano. Mason Lino converted to leave the teams level 6-6 at the break.

The visitors nudged ahead 8-6 with a Dodd penalty in the 54th minutes and there the score stayed closing in on the last 10 minutes.

Then the breakthrough for the Vodafone Warriors, wing Viliami Kaveinga collecting a short kick over Illawarra’s defensive line to go over in the corner. Lino’s conversion was brilliant and the home side had a 12-8 advantage.

The Cutters applied plenty of pressure in the tense final minutes, going close only for centre Taane Milne to loose possession near the line.

They couldn’t find a way through, the Vodafone Warriors holding on for a meritorious victory against a side including former Vodafone Warriors hooker Siliva Havili.

Match details | Mount Smart Stadium #2, Auckland

Vodafone Warriors 12 (Jazz Tevaga, Viliami Kaveinga tries; Mason Lino 2 conversions).

Illawarra Cutters 8 (Dunamis Lui try; Levi Dodd conversion, penalty).

Halftime: 6-6.

Referee: Shane Rehm.

Vodafone Warriors | Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad; Viliami Kaveinga, Junior Pauga, Matt Allwood, Lewis Soosemea; Ata Hingano, Mason Lino; James Gavet, Nathaniel Roache, John Palavi (c); Bunty Afoa, Shaun Lane; Jazz Tevaga. Interchange: James Bell, Upu Poching, Ofahiki Ogden, Erin Clark.