A weekend of double celebration has been sealed for the One New Zealand Warriors after the club’s New South Wales Cup side delivered arguably its best performance of the season in a gritty 26-14 comeback win over defending premiers the Penrith Panthers in Sydney today.
Following the NRL team’s hard-earned 28-18 victory over the Gold Coast Titans last night, the result has given the One New Zealand Warriors a second consecutive double on the back of the twin 21-20 victories over Canberra two weeks ago.
The Slade Griffin-coached New South Wales Cup team has further strengthened its hold on second spot with a tremendous second half display, avenging their 14-24 loss to the Panthers in Auckland in June.
Down just 8-10 at the break, the Warriors went 8-14 behind six minutes into the second half but then rallied to gain momentum as they put together three unanswered tries to take out the contest.
They had to deal with adversity, too, when fullback Ben Farr left the field on a stretcher in the opening minutes of the second half but the rearranged backline didn’t falter as the resilient One New Zealand Warriors delivered a compelling defensive effort to repel and deny the Panthers time after time.
The Warriors began the match superbly from the opening set, the Panthers failing to defuse Ronald Volkman’s last tackle bomb, Setu Tu swooping to claim the loose ball and feeding second rower Kalani Going for a gift try wide out.
Penrith hadn’t had the ball but soon atoned as former One New Zealand Warriors player Preston Riki and then centre Jesse McLean scored to give their side a 10-4 edge.
Just when it seemed that would be the halftime score, the Warriors struck with a stunner in the dying seconds. Shaping to go left on the last play, they switched to the right side with Volkman and Farr combining to find centre Viliami Vailea. He batted the pass on and Tu, with little room to work in, got the ball down brilliantly for a 10-8 score-line in Penrith’s favour.
It became 14-8 in the 46th minute with a Tom Jenkins try but from there on the contest began to tilt the Warriors’ way as they grabbed the momentum and held onto it.
In the 53rd minute they hit a short right side where Volkman, Tu and Vailea combined for Moala Graham-Taufa to soar over in the corner, Volkman locking it up 14-14 with a grand sideline conversion.
Seven minutes later they had the lead, Panthers winger Daeon Amituanai fielding a Volkman last tackle kick but losing possession in a Vailea tackle with Michael Sio snaffling the loose ball for a gift try.
Volkman converted for a 20-14 win iced by a third consecutive try in the 67th minute when Penrith again couldn’t deal with a Volkman kick. From wide out on the right, the halfback’s cross-field kick went loose after Edward Kosi rose to tap the ball back for hooker Freddy Lussick to score.
With 12 wins and a draw, the Warriors are now on 29 points level with the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs but ahead on points for and again.
St Marys League Stadium, Penrith
Penrith Panthers 14 (Preston Riki, Jesse McLean, Tom Jenkins tries; Jack Cole conversion).
One New Zealand Warriors 26 (Kalani Going, Setu Tu, Moala-Graham Taufa, Micheal Sio, Freddy Lussick tries; Ronald Volkman 3 conversions).
Halftime: 10-8 Panthers.
One New Zealand Warriors | Ben Farr; Setu Tu, Moala Graham-Taufa, Viliami Vailea, Edward Kosi; Eiden Ackland, Ronald Volkman; Tom Ale, Freddy Lussick, Tanner Stowers-Smith; Leka Halasima, Kalani Going (c); Demitric Sifakula. Interchange: Zyon Maiu’u, Michael Sio (c), Isaiah Vagana, Jacob Laban.