Leading the Intrust Super Premiership NSW heading into Round 16, Mounties have been relegated to second position following a 24-20 loss to the Warriors in Auckland.
Match: Warriors v Mounties
Round 16 -
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
Brilliant sunshine greeted both the visitors and fifth-placed home side at Mt Smart Stadium, a place the Warriors hadn't played at in six weeks when they lost 11-0 to Wests.
The Warriors welcomed back the influential Chanel Harris-Tavita, who missed their scratchy win over cellar-dwellers Newcastle with injury. Blake Ayshford filled the void of Anthony Gelling, who turned out for the Warriors' NRL outfit in Round 16.
Meanwhile, Mounties were missing their prolific winger Mikaele Ravalawa, who has scored 11 tries this season.
Both sides kept it tight off the kick-off, however it was the Warriors who got the first real chance after seven minutes when some dominant defence forced a line drop out from Mounties. Although Joseph Vuna got close off the ensuing set, they ultimately couldn't make it count.
Mounties then marched straight down the field and won a penalty on the Warriors' goal line, which resulted in a simple try under the posts to prop Royce Hunt. Sitiveni Moceidreke converted and instead of resting on their laurels, Mounties made the Warriors pay for slack discipline again.
A sweeping set from the kick-off saw Sam Williams get some great front-foot ball, allowing him to pop a beautiful kick over the defensive line for former Warrior Omar Slaimankhel to grab and score in the corner.
After that one-two punch combo, the Warriors picked themselves off the canvas to score next with a very slick try to Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad. Mounties gifted the Warriors two penalties in a row, which meant that Mason Lino and Ayshford could combine to send their winger over by the right-hand corner flag.
Harris-Tavita's deadly boot saw the Warriors cut the deficit to four after 25 minutes.
By now the momentum was firmly with the home side, and a Mounties handling error gave them another shot at the line. This time Ayshford did it himself, running a perfect line off a Lino pass to score 10 metres in from touch on the same side.
Harris-Tavita suffered a nasty high shot five minutes before halftime. It knocked the five eighth out of the game and off to the dentist, and robbed the Warriors of their first-choice goal kicker.
It didn't stop them from coming out firing after halftime, with Karl Lawton scoring from close range in the 46th minute. They then extended the lead to 14 after Nicoll-Klokstad swooped on an errant Mounties pass, picking up the ball and galloping 70 metres to score under the posts.
Mounties were far from done though, and exploited some space on the right edge to send Jordan Martin over. Although he ran the try around close to the posts, Moceidreke clanked the conversion off the upright.
The 24-14 scoreline set up a tense final 20 minutes, but both sides took turns bombing opportunities at either end. The pressure was on Mounties to cook something up on attack, and again it was the boot of Williams that paid dividends. His kick along the deck bounced into Slaimankhel's hands again, and then he relieved Moceidreke of the goal kicking duties to make it a four-point game with three minutes to go.
Off the kick-off, a huge run by Ed Murphy moved Mounties into the Warriors' red zone, however they couldn't convert this last chance into points. The Warriors ran out the clock for a very tough win at home, and valuable competition points.
The Warriors move over the Auckland Harbour Bridge next weekend, when they host Wentworthville at QBE Stadium on the North Shore. Mounties will be looking to get back on track at Belmore where they take on the Bulldogs.
WARRIORS 24 (C Nicoll-Klokstad 2 B Ayshford K Lawton tries Harris-Tavita 2 M Lino 2 goals) bt MOUNTIES 20 (O Slaimankhel 2 R Hunt J Martin tries S Moceidreke S Williams goals)