Chanel Harris-Tavita re-established himself as the key man in the Vodafone Warriors' Canterbury Cup NSW side, masterminding a 20-6 win over the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles at a sunny Rarotonga Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Sea Eagles were their own worst enemies after the kickoff, giving away three penalties in a row.
That sort of indiscipline always deserves to be punished and Sam Lisone was the man to do it after a patient build-up by the Vodafone Warriors.
He stretched out to score next to the posts and Harris-Tavita’s conversion gave the home side an early 6-0 lead after only five minutes.
That woke the visitors up and winger Abbas Miski went close after a long period of possession. Unfortunately he knocked on over the line and the opportunity was lost.
After 17 minutes, a kick wide by Denzal Tonise just evaded the grasp of his other wing John Tohi that would have been another try.
However, the Vodafone Warriors were having a few troubles of their own by now. Their attack spluttered to a standstill until the 25th minute when Solomone Kata went through a gap close to the line, only to lose the ball.
More bad news for the home side followed not long after when Harris-Tavita left the field for an HIA.
Tempers flared after half an hour when a late charge on Adam Keighran by Sean Keppie left the Vodafone Warriors’ standoff sprawled on the turf and both sides rushed in to test the strength of each other’s collars.
Keppie was placed on report for the hit and Kata was sin binned by referee Damian Brady for throwing a punch.
The Sea Eagles then withstood a repeat set on their own line as the clock ticked down to the break.
A Vodafone Warriors handling error 20 metres out gave the Sea Eagles an excellent chance but, despite a repeat set, they couldn’t get across before the hooter went.
Harris-Tavita and Kata returned for the second half as both teams initially resumed the grind that the game had now become.
Sea Eagles second rower Haumole Olakau’atu looked to have slipped through a gap after seven minutes but once again the ball was lost.
Both sides were guilty of slackness in their ball handling for the next period as the completion rate dipped below 75 percent each. Even when the Sea Eagles did complete a set close to the Vodafone Warriors’ line they were easily defended and turned the ball over on the sixth tackle.
The Vodafone Warriors made them pay by marching down the field and then Harris-Tavita picked up a lovely offload by Leivaha Pulu to score next to the posts to push them out to a two-score lead with 20 to play.
Barely two minutes later the crucial score came. Harris-Tavita sent a perfect kick over for Adam Pompey to bat back infield for Kata, who placed the ball next to the corner flag. Keighran’s kick sailed over the black dot and the game was now theirs to lose at 18-0.
With seven minutes to go they almost added another try to Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard but he was held up over the line.
With four minutes to go, Keighran tacked on a penalty goal to make the score a commanding 20-0.
With only 90 seconds left on the clock, the Sea Eagles finally got off the mark with a sweeping try to Miski. The conversion made the final score 20-6.
The win moved the Vodafone Warriors to nine points, just a point outside the top eight.
The Vodafone Warriors had six under-20 players in their line-up - fullback Paul Turner, centre Hayze Perham, halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita, hooker Tyler Slade - who was making his Canterbury Cup debut - and interchange forwards Sean Mullany and Phillip Makatoa.
At Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 20 (Sam Lisone, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Solomone Kata tries; Adam Keighran 2 conversions, penalty; Chanel Harris-Tavita conversion).
Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles 6 (Abbas Miski try; Kamren Cryer conversion).
Halftime: 6-0 Vodafone Warriors.
Vodafone Warriors | Paul Turner; Gerard Beale, Hayze Perham, Solomone Kata, Adam Pompey; Adam Keighran, Chanel Harris-Tavita; Chris Satae, Tyler Slade, Sam Lisone; Blake Ayshford, Taane Milne; Leivaha Pulu. Interchange: Sean Mullany, Jackson Frei, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Phillip Makatoa.