Securing a Home Semi
Can you remember back to when we started the season with three straight losses? Well after Saturday night’s 26-12 win over Penrith the Vodafone Warriors are travelling inside the top four and if we can win our remaining games, we’ll secure a home semi.
It was wonderful to see big Manu Vatuvei’s golden smile as he wrapped it all up with a late try that finally extinguished any hopes a pretty gutsy Panthers outfit had.
We scored four tries to two and the undoubted hero of the night was Kevin Locke at fullback. What a game he had, catching everything, tackling like a demon and scoring a great try to boot.
The win meant we leapfrogged North Queensland, who lost to Souths in golden point extra time to a disputed penalty after Isaac Luke went down, and St George, who lost 8-6 to Melbourne as Billy Slater played game 200 as the Storm made it 12 straight.
The Dragons are running like a clapped-old Holden, losing five straight, but that is terrible news for us because they have to win sooner or later, and we face them in Wollongong on Sunday.
They say defence wins matches and ours was pretty good again, although not as flash as it has been. But we did still manage to keep the Panthers try-less in the last quarter, which means in the last seven games we’ve conceded an average of less than 13 points a match.
You will all have seen or read about the match but the first half tries to halfback Shaun Johnson and Locke were as good as any I have ever seen, and Johnson’s in particular came at a great time for us because the Panthers had applied all the pressure and butchered a couple of tries.
Johnson is really getting the headlines after scoring six tries in only 10 games.
Big Ben Matulino scored straight from the kick-off and in minutes the whole complexion of the game had totally changed, so that when Locke added his stunning effort with only seconds to half-time we went into the sheds at 16-0 and it was hard to see the Panthers coming back.
But to be fair to them, they did. They were gutsy and hung about and were rewarded with points so that at one stage they were back to only trailing by six points with quarter of an hour still to go.
James Maloney pushed it to eight with a penalty, then banged down a 40/20, and from the scrum Johnson tapped a kick into the in-goal for Manu to end the night with a big grin.
The Junior Warriors lost 32-12 and failed to sew up the minor premiership though.
We will still be minor premiers for the first time ever if we win one of our last two.
Penrith looked good though, and it’s easy to see how they managed five wins in their last six, at one stage running up a 30-0 lead before we clawed it back a bit when winger DJ Collier scored twice and Adam Henry also went over.
But it was not to be and the boys will have to do better against St George on Sunday or North Queensland on September 3.
While the Juniors will have to wait to be crowned, the Howick Hornets won’t, with the east Auckland outfit winning the Fox Memorial grand final 24-14 over Otahuhu’s Leopards on Saturday. Mark Lemalu was a coach’s dream, saving a terrific performance for the final, scoring three tries.
Our old mate and Warriors legend Stacey Jones’ Pt Chevalier Pirates wrapped up the Sharman Cup with a 24-16 win over Bay Roskill. It was a good team effort with four different players getting tries, and Mana Ashford showing his value by converting all of them for an eight point haul– the difference between the two sides.
In the Phelan Shield New Lynn’s Stags and the Papatoetoe Panthers went crazy, scoring more than 60 points between them. But it was New Lynn who took the title, winning a very entertaining game 32-30. Both sides scored six tries, but the Stags converted one more for the vital two points that saw the shield head west.
It was a fantastic day that was a great credit to the Auckland Rugby League and it was also absolutely sensational to see the finals being played on Mt Smart.
Next year expect to see the Mighty Mangere East Hawks on finals day, in fact expect to see them for a few years because the club’s youngsters were champions at under 13s,14s,15s,16s, and 17s levels. That’s what I call incredible. Well done boys, the barbecue is on the Butcher.
With only one home game left in the regular season, the Cowboys on September 3, don’t miss out. You can get your tickets at Mad Butchers shops at Mangere, Manukau, Takanini, Albany and Glenn Innes.
But before then the Junior Warriors have a minor premiership to tie up, and go the Vodafone Warriors, let’s make it six straight losses for St George.
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