A vastly improved effort wasn’t enough to bring about victory for the Vodafone Junior Warriors over Melbourne at a sodden Mount Smart Stadium tonight.
Smarting from a disappointing 10-48 loss to Newcastle last Sunday, the Grant Pocklington-coached home side needed to lift significantly and did, but only after another slow start.
Inside the first 10 minutes, Melbourne centre Sala Finau was sent over twice to take his side out to a 12-0 lead.
Battling the elements, the Vodafone Junior Warriors were being challenged to stay in the contest but got right back into it in unlikely circumstances.
The Storm pumped up an attacking bomb, the ball went loose in the contest and speedy left wing Lewis Soosemea – one of the club’s fastest players – latched onto it, breaking clear and sizzling the best part of 90 metres to score.
The score-line extended to 10 points in Melbourne's favour at halftime – 16-6 – on the back of left wing Harlan Collins’ first try and then 20-6 in the second half after Collins snared a second.
There was time left, though, and the Vodafone Junior Warriors didn’t want for time in Melbourne’s end of the field.
However, in admittedly testing conditions, they couldn’t hang onto the ball long enough to really create pressure.
At last they had some joy when interchange forward Jerome Mamea burrowed over, Kane Telea converted. At 12-20 there was hope but ultimately the Vodafone Junior Warriors couldn’t execute their plays.
Pocklington demanded a lift intensity and effort, resulting in a much-improved defensive performance but there was no victory to show for it.
Match details | Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Junior Warriors 12 (Lewis Soosemea, Jerome Mamea tries; Kane Telea 2 conversions).
Melbourne Storm 20 (Sala Finau 2, Harlan Collins 2 tries; Hayden Herbert 2 conversions).
Halftime: 16-6 Knights.
Referees: Phil Henderson and Gavin Reynolds.
Vodafone Junior Warriors | Kane Telea; Lewis Soosemea, Junior Pauga, Melino Fineanganofo, Mat Faitotoa, Edward Vaeau-Mulitalo; Chanel Harris-Tavita, Eiden Ackland; Kenese Kenese (c), Chris Sio (c), Soane Hufanga; Joe Vuna, Havi Tupouniua; Shane Hannam. Interchange: Jordan Pinnock, Dylan Tavita, Jerome Mamea, Nathan Newton.