The Vodafone Warriors extended their unbeaten run to eight games claiming a strong 24-8 victory over the North Sydney Bears in their eighth-round Intrust Super Premiership clash at North Sydney Oval today.
The opening 40 minutes of the contest was hard-fought as both teams were unable to do significant damage on the scoreboard.
It took a Tuimoala Loholea intercept in the second half to swing the momentum of the contest.
The Bears continued to work hard for field position but were unable to execute their constant attacking raids and the Vodafone Warriors eventually ran away with another victory that was inspired by nifty halfback Mason Lino.
Although the score did not reflect the Bears' incredible goal-line defence, the Vodafone Warriors proved too strong with their abundance of strike-power out wide.
In the opening two minutes of the game, a break against the run of play from back rower Ofa Ogden put the Vodafone Warriors in good field position to claim first points of the afternoon but they were unable to capitalise as a Lino grubber was well contained.
It wasn't long before the Vodafone Warriors were able to draw first blood, with Lolohea finishing off a classy backline movement thanks to a well-timed cut out pass from Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
The Vodafone Warriors continued to apply constant pressure on the Bears' goal-line with astute kicking from Lino and Nicoll-Klokstad earning consecutive drop-outs. Despite the continuous attacking raids, the Bears' defence held strong as the battle for field position was thoroughly against them in the opening 15 minutes.
It took a while for the Bears to find some momentum in the contest after their consistent defensive efforts on their goal-line. It was Dane Nielsen who gave his team a much-needed spark with a brilliant offload to Eli Levido, only for winger to be brought down 30 metres out from the line.
The Bears received a penalty for a support player being held back but were unable to take advantage with a clumsy knock-on moments later.
Soon after a penalty on the halfway line gave the Bears a chance to earn themselves the perfect reply, and Luke Kelly stood up and delivered with a crafty show-and-go helping him cross the line. Levido converted the try and the score was set at 6-4 with just under 15 minutes remaining in the first half.
The Vodafone Warriors continued to dominate possession and the Bears could hold on for only so long with the visitors finally finding a breakthrough. Bunty Afoa made a short burst down the right-hand side, before offloading to Lolohea who then found Matt Allwood to cross for the Vodafone Warriors’ second try.
Lino missed his second sideline conversion of the day and the score remained at 8-6 with just four minutes to play in the half.
The final stages of a gritty first half soon came to an end with the ladder leaders holding onto their slight two-point advantage.
The opening sets of the second half were very similar to the first 40 with both sides looking to stamp their authority with some charging runs up the middle third. An obstruction penalty from the Vodafone Warriors on their goal-line allowed Levido to add another two points, drawing the game level at 8-8.
Nicoll-Klokstad was having a strong game at fullback with plenty of evasive runs and threatening with the ball in hand but he failed to catch a scorching bomb and gifted the Bears a set on their goal line.
The Bears earned themselves some repeat sets throughout a dominant five-minute period that saw them test the Vodafone Warriors' defence but it was to no avail as Lolohea plucked an intercept and ran 90 metres to score next to the posts. Lino converted for the first time of the afternoon, claiming a much-needed 14-8 advantage after 60 minutes.
The Vodafone Warriors were full of confidence following the breakthrough try and they soon found themselves in perfect position for back-to-back tries after the Bears failed to clean up a bomb.
It didn't take long for Lino to again be the key orchestrator with a pin-point grubber kick giving left wing Junior Pauga a try in the corner.
The Bears continued to fight their way back into the contest and were determined to heavily compete in final 15 minutes of the game and they somehow found possession after they pushed the scrum and won against the feed.
Despite the Bears' resilience, the Vodafone Warriors earned themselves a final try to Albert Vete to run away with a strong 24-8 victory to continue their undefeated start to their season.
North Sydney Oval, North Sydney
North Sydney Bears 8 (Luke Kelly try; Eli Levido conversion, penalty).
Vodafone Warriors 24 (Tuimoala Lolohea 2, Matt Allwood, Junior Pauga, Albert Vete tries; Mason Lino 2 conversions).
Halftime: 8-6 Vodafone Warriors.
Vodafone Warriors | Chanze Nicoll-Klokstad; Junior Pauga, Matt Allwood, Semisi Fotu, Tuimoala Lolohea; Mafoa'aeata Hingano, Mason Lino (c); Charlie Gubb, Sam Cook, Albert Vete; Ofa Ogden, Bunty Afoa; Jazz Tevaga. Interchange: Patrick Sipley, Chris Satae, Toafofoa Sipley, Paulos Latu.
- This article first appeared on www.nswrl.com.au