A gritty second half defensive effort carried the Vodafone Junior Warriors to an outstanding 14-12 win over second-placed Penrith in today’s 18th-round Jersey Flegg Cup clash at QBE North Harbour Stadium in Auckland.
Despite the atrocious weather conditions, the Ricky Henry-coached side put together three tries to take an impressive 14-0 lead into the halftime break.
Loose forward Phillip Makatoa opened the scoring before centres Siave Tupou – on debut – and Casey Smith also snared four-pointers with Eiden Ackland supplying one conversion.
The second half turned into a defensive examination for the Vodafone Junior Warriors as the Panthers came out of the blocks fast, netting an early converted try to cut the margin to eight points at 6-14.
For a long period, the Vodafone Junior Warriors succeeded in preventing any further scoreboard damage only to be breached in the closing stages.
Leading just 14-12, the Vodafone Junior Warriors were then under siege in the dying moments but a Penrith error brought about relief and the ultimate glory of a key victory.
It was only the fourth win of the season, lifting them to 10th place on the ladder on 14 points.
At QBE North Harbour Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Junior Warriors 14 (Phillip Makatoa, Siave Tupou, Casey Smith tries; Eiden Ackland conversion).
Penrith Panthers 12 (Adam Fearnley, Matthew Faauila tries; Brendan Hands 2 conversions).
Halftime: 14-0 Vodafone Junior Warriors.
Referee: Nathan Barker.
Vodafone Junior Warriors | Kayal Iro; Harley Maynard, Casey Smith, Siave Tupou, Emanuel Tuimavave-Gerrard; Paul Turner, Eiden Ackland; Lotu Inisi, Richard To’ai, Junior Pua; Sione Tupouniua, Tyler Slade (c); Phillip Makatoa. Interchange: Sione Tuipulotu, Taane Paki, Kakoa Togoiu, Soane Hufanga.