The Vodafone Junior Warriors muscled up for their best win of the season by stunning competition leader Cronulla-Sutherland 16-12 in their 18th-round Jersey Flegg Cup contest at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday.
The Sharks had lost just twice before in the campaign but couldn’t find a way through as the home side showed exceptional tenacity to protect a four-point advantage over the last 20 minutes of the encounter.
Tries to 17-year-old rookie hooker Taniela Otukolo and wing Edward Kosi had the Vodafone Junior Warriors leading 10-6 at halftime before they extended to 16-6 with a converted Michael Lemafa try early in the second spell.
Soon enough the Sharks bit back to reduce the margin back to four points with plenty of time to go but the Vodafone Junior Warriors were resolute to close the match out and pick up a priceless two points.
The success was all the more remarkable given the possession statistics which showed the Vodafone Junior Warriors had just 44 per cent of the ball while they completed only 16 of 29 sets (55 per cent) compared to Cronulla's 28 from 38 (74 per cent). The Sharks also forced six goal-line drop outs.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors' second consecutive win lifted them to 14 points, just one behind the eighth-placed St George Illawarra Dragons.
It also gave the club the second leg of a sweep of all three grades with the NRL side beating the Sharks 19-18 on Friday night and the Canterbury Cup NSW team trouncing Newtown 34-8.
At Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Junior Warriors 16 (Taniela Otukolo, Edward Kosi, Michael Lemafa tries; Sione Moala 2 conversions).
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 12 (Josh Delailoa, Vito Tevaga tries; Jonaiah Lualua 2 conversions).
Halftime: 10-6 Vodafone Junior Warriors.
Vodafone Junior Warriors | Emanuel Tuimavave-Gerrard; Selestino Ravutaumada, Kayal Iro, Casey Smith, Edward Kosi; William Fakatoumafi, Sione Moala; Junior Pua, Taniela Otukolo, Wesley Veikoso; Toni Tupouniua, Tom Ale; Brody Tamarua (c). Interchange: Isaiah Vagana, Jyris Glamuzina, Harley Maynard, Michael Lemafa.