The Vodafone Warriors overcame a 10-point deficit to beat the Wentworthville Magpies 20-18 in an exciting contest in the 11th-round of Intrust Super Premiership at Ringrose Park in Sydney on Sunday.
The Magpies had come back to claim an 18-16 edge in the final minutes but there was still enough time for the Vodafone Warriors to engineer a match winning try for wing Paulos Latu to climb to 18 points on the ladder, one behind competition leader Wyong.
It snuffed out the chance of a Wentworthville upset after the home side had dictated terms early on.
Finding space on the edge, some simple passing through the hands gave the Magpies the opening try to Bureta Faraimo in the left-hand corner of the ground. Jamal Fogarty nailed the conversion from the sideline and gave the Magpies an early six-point lead.
Faraimo would soon find himself with a brace after some clever work from the halves saw the Vodafone Warriors again caught short on their right hand edge and handing the Magpies a gift four points. Fogarty was unable to convert but a commanding lead was building.
With the Vodafone Warriors being starved of both field position and possession, it was a relieving penalty that finally got them back into a good ball area.
It took a lucky bounce, but the Vodafone Warriors finally crossed the stripe late in the first half to fight their way back into the game through a bouncing ball and Paulos Latu slammed it down in the corner. Mason Lino converted from the sideline to ensure the Warriors were only behind by four points.
With only one minute left on the clock, Tui Lolohea came up with some outstanding acrobatics to bat a kick for touch back in field to save the Vodafone Warriors a final onslaught from the Magpies and ensured the score line remained 10-6 at halftime.
The first points in the second half came through a sloppy ruck penalty against the Vodafone Warriors right in front of the sticks, with the Magpies opting to take the two and extend their lead back to a converted try.
The Vodafone Warriors were slowly gaining the ascendancy in the middle of the field with strong carries and it was only a matter of time before they struck again, this time through the talented Lolohea who chased through a grubber and got to the ball first to lock things up yet again at 12-12.
Things only got worse for the Magpies as a cross-field kick was dropped and in the ensuing scramble, Junior Pauga managed to get the ball over the line. The Vodafone Warriors found themselves in front 16-12 after Lino failed to convert from the sideline.
The back-and-forth in this exciting game continued with Nathan Davis running an excellent out-and-in line that saw him burst through some feeble defence and score untouched under the black dot with the lead yet again changing, the Magpies ahead 18-16.
With only five minutes left the Vodafone Warriors needed something special and they got it from a sublime cut-out ball from Sam Cook which hit Latu on the chest at full speed and he planted the ball down to give his side the lead with little time left.
The Vodafone Warriors' defence was outstanding to finish the match. Some bruising hits came with only seconds left to see the Magpies cough up possession and give a monumental victory to the boys from across the ditch.
The Vodafone Warriors were too good over the total 80 minutes to seal a crucial victory as they continue the fight for first place with Wyong.
Ringrose Park, Sydney
Wentworthville Magpies 18 (Bureta Faraimo 2, Nathan Davis; Jamal Fogarty 2 conversions, penalty).
Vodafone Warriors 20 (Paulos Latu 2, Tuimoala Lolohea, Junior Pauga tries; Mason Lino 2 conversions).
Halftime: 10-6 Magpies.
Vodafone Warriors | Tuimoala Lolohea; Paulos Latu, King Vuniyayawa, Semisi Fotu, Junior Pauga; Sam Cook, Mason Lino (c); Ligi Sao, Nathaniel Roache, Albert Vete; Ofahiki Ogden, Isaiah Papali'i; James Bell. Interchange: Jazz Tevaga, Patrick Sipley, Chris Satae, Toafofoa Sipley.