A courageous defensive effort in searing heat carried the One New Zealand Warriors to a gritty 10-8 first-round win over South Sydney in their return to the SG Ball Cup under-19 competition at Redfern Oval today.
It was the club’s first match in the competition since March 15, 2020 when the Covid pandemic brought about the cancellation of the premiership and ultimately left the One New Zealand Warriors without an SG Ball team for just on three years.
Their triumphant reappearance today was based on the type of defensive resilience and effectiveness 331-game NRL great Adam Blair demanded throughout the preseason after being appointed as first-year coach.
There was no shortage of it – especially in a scoreless second half – as the One New Zealand Warriors twice rebounded from conceding first-half tries to take a 10-8 lead into the break.
With the temperature rising to 28 degrees in match that kicked off at 11.00am, Blair’s young charges kept turning the Rabbitohs away and also scrambled superbly to snuff out would-be South Sydney tries.
At the other end of the field, they should have given themselves some breathing space but missed two clear try-scoring opportunities.
The Rabbitohs had opened the scoring just three minutes into the contest before hooker Etuate Fukofuka scored in the 11th minute and converted to give the One New Zealand Warriors a 6-4 lead.
It was short-lived with Drew Williams edging the Rabbitohs ahead 8-6 before impressive winger Sio Kali put his the visiting side back in front.
There the score would remain with Fukofuka’s conversion proving the most critical scoring act in the game.
The Rabbitohs couldn’t buy a goal. They failed to convert either of their tries then missed two late penalties in front of the posts in a bid to tie the scores up.
The One New Zealand Warriors return home hoping to go back-to-back when they host Manly Warringah at Navigation Homes Stadium in Pukekohe next Sunday. The Sea Eagles opened their season with an 18-40 loss to the Western Suburbs Magpies on Saturday.
Redfern Oval, Sydney
South Sydney Rabbitohs 8 (Tyrone Munro, Drew Williams tries).
One New Zealand Warriors 10 (Etuate Fukofuka, Sio Kali tries; Etuate Fukofuka conversion).
Halftime: 10-8 One New Zealand Warriors.
One New Zealand Warriors | Ratu Naborisi; Raphael Sio, Patrick Moimoi, Siale Faeamani, Sio Kali; William Piliu, Sefanaia Cowley-Lupo; Tanner Stowers-Smith (c), Etuate Fukofuka, Harry Durbin; Kayliss Fatialofa, Eddie Ieremia; Leka Halasima Tuakalu-Tavalu. Interchange: Jeriko Filipi, Siale Siulangapo, Rodney Tuipulotu Vea, Presley Seumanu Tigafua.