The One New Zealand Warriors rebounded impressively from two heavy losses to push defending premiers the Penrith Panthers all the way in their seventh-round SG Ball Cup encounter at St Marys Leagues in Sydney on Sunday.
When hooker Etuate Fukofuka scored his second try of the match in the 51st minute, he’d helped his side to a 16-12 lead to provide the whiff of an upset.
It wasn’t to be with the Panthers striking back in the 62nd minute to lead 18-16 and then sealing it with another try two minutes from fulltime to win 24-16.
Despite the result, the effort was encouraging as the One New Zealand Warriors responded after conceding 40 points in each of their previous two matches.
They conceded the opening try in just the third minute but tries to loose forward Leka Halasima and hooker Fukofuka – both converted by Fukofuka – had them leading 12-6 after 25 minutes.
The advantage was short-lived with Penrith drawing level minutes later to go the break at 12-12.
After Fukofuka’s second try a pivotal moment followed three minutes later when One New Zealand Warriors middle forward Ben Peni was sin binned; while he was off the Panthers scored to regain a lead they hadn’t held since the opening minutes.
With a third loss on end, the One New Zealand Warriors now have a three win-three loss record to sit 10th on the table on six points. Just two rounds remain although they also have a postponed match against Manly Warringah to be played at Easter.
They’re back home for a triple header extravaganza next Sunday when the One New Zealand Warriors have their first game day of the season at Mount Smart Stadium.
The SG Ball side will face seventh-placed Canterbury Bankstown at 11.40am with the New South Wales Cup clash against the Bulldogs following at 1.30pm ahead of the NRL fixture at 4.00pm.
St Marys Leagues Stadium, Sydney
Penrith Panthers 24 (Nick Murphy, Wilson De Courcey, Cooper Ferrari, Riley Pollard 4 conversions).
One New Zealand Warriors 16 (Etuate Fukofuka 2, Leka Halasima tries; Etuate Fukofuka 2 conversions).
One New Zealand Warriors | Ratu Naborisi; Te Hataterehapaerau Reid, Siale Faeamani, Patrick Moimoi, Raphael Sio; Phranklyn Mano-Le-Mamea, Sefanaia Cowley-Lupo; Tanner Stowers-Smith (c), Etuate Fukofuka, Harry Durbin; Eddie Ieremia, Kayliss Fataialofa;. Leka Halasima. Interchange: Makaia Tafua, Rodney Tuipulotu-Vea, Ben Peni, Presley Seumanu Tigafua.