A 28-14 win over Illawarra arrested a run of four games without a win for the second-placed Vodafone Warriors in today's 19th-round Intrust Super Premiership encounter at Mount Smart Stadium.
They had conceded late tries to lose their previous two outings against Canterbury-Bankstown (20-22) and Penrith (19-22) while they fell to a convincing 12-30 loss to the Sea Eagles on June 11 and also drew 18-18 with Newcastle on June 3.
Not since their 18-10 win over North Sydney in late May had the second-placed Vodafone Warriors had success but they were in no mood to allow the winning drought to continue today as they came off their second bye last week.
The Vodafone Warriors went into the match boosted by the return of experienced centre Matt Allwood, who had been sidelined for several weeks with a rib injury.
Also in the line-up making his Vodafone Warriors debut was Wellington-born Bureta Faraimo, who scored nine tries in 15 NRL appearances for Parramatta from 2014-2016. He never faced the Vodafone Warriors at NRL level but was a familiar opponent for Wenworthville in the ISP, most recently in May when he scored twice in the Magpies' 18-20 loss to the Vodafone Warriors.
His inclusion meant the home side fielded each of its three mid-season signings with Faraimo joining ex-Wests Tigers hooker Manaia Cherrington and former North Queensland and Canberra utility Zac Santo.
Allwood marked his return with an early reward when he scored after chasing down a Mason Lino short side kick superbly. Lino supplied the extra two points for a 6-0 lead.
Enjoying a period of sustained possession through a share of penalties, Illawarra eventually found some joy with an unconverted try to hooker Reece Robson but two further strikes would give the Vodafone Warriors a handy 16-4 halftime lead.
The first came from speedy centre Junior Pauga when he went 60 metres to score before a big break from Santo provided the impetus for a try to standoff Sam Cook.
The 12-point edge was reduced to six 14 minutes into the second half. Seasoned second rower Will Matthews, who hasn't added to his 92 NRL appearances so far this year, regathered a kick to score with fullback Patrick Herbert converting to leave Illawarra just 10-16 down.
Desperate to ensure their lead wasn't further eroded, the Vodafone Warriors quickly settled down after the setback, won a penalty in kicking range and had no hesitation in opting for a shot at goal. Lino obliged to take his side out to an 18-10 advantage with 20 minutes to play.
That was extended to 22-10 by a 66th-minute Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad try - not converted - and then 28-10 when Pauga brilliantly stripped the ball and scampered 40 metres to score his second try in the 72nd minute.
Lino's conversion had the home side victory-bound although Illawarra completed the scoring action with a Kalifa Faifai Loa try late in the piece.
The triumph lifts the Vodafone Warriors to 27 points on the table. They're away to Newtown next weekend.
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 28 (Junior Pauga 2, Matt Allwood, Sam Cook, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad tries; Mason Lino 3 conversions, penalty).
Illawarra Cutters 14 (Reece Robson, Will Matthews, Kalifa Faifai Loa tries; Patrick Herbert conversion).
Halftime: 16-4 Vodafone Warriors.
Vodafone Warriors | Zac Santo; Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Matt Allwood, Junior Pauga, Bureta Faraimo; Sam Cook, Mason Lino (c); Chris Satae, Manaia Cherrington, Ligi Sao; Ofahiki Ogden, Isaiah Papali'i; James Bell. Interchange: Daniel Palavi, Jazz Tevaga, Toafofoa Sipley, Patrick Sipley.