A total of 12 tries were scored in a free-wheeling contest as the minor premiership-winning Mounties held on to beat a Vodafone Warriors side which kept coming back in today’s 24th-round Intrust Super Premiership match at Mount Smart Stadium.
The visitors had a 20-12 lead at the break but the Vodafone Warriors kept nipping back, going into the last eight minutes just two points behind 30-32 after Viliami Kaveinga sneaked over from dummy half.
They couldn’t find a winner, though, and it was seasoned NRL back rower Shaun Fensom who put the result out of reach with his second try in the dying stages to give the Mounties a 38-30 win.
It’s a result which will see the Vodafone Warriors slip out of the top four if Newtown beats North Sydney today.
The Vodafone Warriors went into the match with a side showing several changes from the one originally selected.
Henare Wells came in on the wing for Matt Allwood and veteran former Newcastle and Wigan centre George Carmont was called up for Jonathan Wright. Shaun Lane was brought into the starting back with Upu Poching going to the bench and Jazz Tevaga came in for Erin Clark at hooker.
The contest was a real grind in the opening 15 minutes, the Mounties earning the best opening in the 16th minute when they had a penalty in front of the posts.
They opted not to go for two, forced a goal-line drop out and from the repeat set found an opening on the Vodafone Warriors’ right edge for centre Eddie Aiono to score. Sam Williams was on the mark with the conversion for a 6-0 lead after 19 minutes.
The Vodafone Warriors wasted little time responding, interchange forward Upu Poching powering onto an inside ball to score next to the left upright. Mason Lino converted to lock it up 6-6.
The scoring then settled into a tit for tat pattern for much of the way.
The Mounties returned serve with a 27th minute try to big right wing Kato Ottio to take a four-point lead but then they slipped up from the restart, failing to cover the kick-off to give the Vodafone Warriors a repeat set from the resulting goal-line drop out.
A minute later interchange forward Patrick Sipley exploded onto a short ball, bursting through defenders to score between the posts. With Lino’s conversion the Vodafone Warriors had a 12-10 lead after 30 minutes.
The advantage was quickly erased, though. with the Mounties setting up left wing Alofi Mataele with some good ball movement and following it up minutes later by keeping the ball alive for Fensom’s first four-pointer. Williams converted Fensom’s try to give his side a 20-12 halftime lead.
The Vodafone Warriors began the second half assertively, lifting their aggression and intensity to put the Mounties on the back foot.
In the 47th minute, Tevaga probed up the middle, burst through and two off loads later standoff Tuimoala Lolohea had a try, backing up and cruising 35 metres to score. With Lino’s conversion the margin was down to 18-20.
As was the case throughout the match, the Vodafone Warriors couldn’t build on it, almost immediately allowing the Mounties to breach their line again with a second Mataele try which Williams converted for a 26-18 edge.
There was no stopping the end to end nature of the encounter.
First the dogged James Bell forced his way over for the Vodafone Warriors and Lino converted to leave the scoreboard reading 26-24 to the Mounties.
They were looking good for a follow-up but an off load went loose, Ottio swooped and then busted the Vodafone Warriors up the middle, travelling 50 metres for his second try to have his side 32-24 ahead.
In the 66th minute Lolohea floated a long pass to the left, giving Tomas Aoake a shot at the left corner. He went over but the linesman ruled he had stepped into touch just short of the corner.
Kaveinga provided plenty of hope when he made up for Aoake’s missed opportunity by catching the Mounties out from dummy half. With Lino making it five from five there was every reason to believe but the break needed just wouldn’t come.
Details | Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 30 (Upu Poching, Patrick Sipley, Tuimoala Lolohea, James Bell, Viliami Kaveinga tries; Mason Lino 5 conversions).
Mounties 38 (Alofi Mataele 2, Kato Ottio 2, Shaun Fensom 2, Eddie Aiono tries; Sam Williams 5 conversions).
Halftime: 20-12 Mounties.
Vodafone Warriors | Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad; Viliami Kaveinga, George Carmont, Semisi Tyrell, Henare Wells; Tuimoala Lolohea, Mason Lino (c); Shaun Lane, Jazz Tevaga, Ligi Sao; John Palavi, Ofahiki Ogden; James Bell. Interchange: Upu Poching, Tomas Aoake, Patrick Sipley, Dan Palavi.