A late try by Setu Tu sealed a hard fought 36-22 win for the Vodafone Warriors in their Canterbury Cup NSW encounter with the Mounties at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland today.
Their third straight win - and fifth in the last six games - lifted the Vodafone Warriors from eighth to sixth on the ladder.
Despite the challenging, blustery conditions, the Vodafone Warriors made a good start, Adam Keighran dancing through some weak defence off their first possession to score next to the posts in only the third minute.
That was as good as it would get for the Vodafone Warriors for quite a while.
An error from the kick-off gave the ball straight back to the Mounties with a goal line drop out and it didn’t take long for them to even up the score when Sam Williams and Dean Matterson combined to send big winger Tony Satini over in the corner.
A great sideline kick from Andre Niko levelled it up and it signalled the start of a long period of dominance for the visitors.
They came close to scoring again after a penalty when Royce Hunt and Sam Lisone decided to trade punches near the Vodafone Warriors’ line. Referee Cameron Paddy had no hesitation in sending both men to the bin for a rest.
There was a stroke of good luck for Mounties in the 19th minute when a kick through by Williams bounced off the goal post padding, leaving Vodafone Warriors defenders sprawling on the turf. Williams followed up and dived on the ball over the try-line to send Mounties out to a 12-6 lead.
Another period of Mounties dominance was rewarded not long after.
A seemingly innocuous set of hands out wide saw Sebastian Kris power through a weak tackle to score in the right hand corner.
Just when it seemed as though the Mounties would shoot out to a big lead, a good run by fullback Paul Turner set the Vodafone Warriors up with good field position.
Hooker Sean Mullany then darted from dummy half to score next to the posts and close the gap up to 16-12, which it stayed till the break.
The Vodafone Warriors had a massive slice of luck of their own after the resumption with a kick from Hayze Perham taking a deflection off Brendan O’Hagan to bounce up perfectly for Lewis Soosemea to dive and plant the ball next to the corner flag. Keighran’s kick sailed wide and the scores were locked at 16-all.
Ten minutes later Leivaha Pulu went through a big gap off a deflected pass, and sent Setu Tu away for a try that gave the Vodafone Warriors the lead.
Suddenly the momentum was firmly with the home side and the Mounties did them another big favour by sending the kick-off out on the full. By now the weather had turned nasty as well, with showers sweeping the ground.
It didn’t stop the Vodafone Warriors putting on a bit of razzle-dazzle, with a bomb from Keighran batted back infield by Soosemea for Ligi Sao and Taane Milne to juggle and eventually send Perham over for a crucial try 14 minutes from time.
But the Mounties weren’t about to lie down. They finally got a bit of ball in the Vodafone Warriors’ red zone and a Williams kick found O’Hagan flying onto the bounce to score in a handy position. The kick made the score 28-22.
The Vodafone Warriors then worked themselves nicely into position for Keighran to set up for a field goal, but instead he bounced out of a couple of rush defenders and set sail for the line from 20 metres out.
He looped a pass out for Tu to complete a double with a try in the corner, then sealed the win by knocking over the sideline conversion.
The loss is Mounties’ sixth in a row but the fifth in the last more crucially puts the Warriors in touching distance of a playoff spot with four rounds to play in the Canterbury Cup.
At North Harbour Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 34 (Setu Tu 2, Adam Keighran, Sean Mullany, Lewis Soosemea, Hayze Perham tries; Adam Keighran 5 conversions).
Mounties 22 (Tony Satini, Sam Williams, Sebastian Kris, Brendan O'Hagan tries; Andre Niko 2 conversions; Sam Williams conversion).
Halftime: 16-12 Mounties.
Vodafone Warriors | Paul Turner; Lewis Soosemea, Adam Pompey, Taane Milne, Setu Tu; Hayze Perham, Adam Keighran; Sam Lisone, Tyler Slade, Jackson Frei; Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Leivaha Pulu; Ligi Sao (c). Interchange: Phillip Makatoa, King Vuniyayawa, Sean Mullany, Preston Riki.