By Richard Becht
For the second week running the Vodafone Warriors had to play the catch-up game and this time it returned some sort of dividend, albeit a 12-all draw with the Illawarra Cutters in their second-round VB NSW Cup clash at Eden Park.
After giving up a 0-16 lead early last week, the New Zealand Warriors were in a similarly generous mood today but had the wherewithal to come back once more.
On this day football wasn’t the sole focus, so was the weather, specifically the influence Cyclone Lusi would have on proceedings.
As it happened the storm’s effects weren’t as pronounced as they might have been in the first match of the day but nonetheless playing conditions were at best trying.
The Cutters generated a perfect storm with back-to-back tries to centre Charlie Runciman and fullback Peter Mata’utia through their left edge, both achieved with rather too much ease.
Five-eighth Sam Duggan nailed both conversions superbly for a 12-0 lead after 17 minutes.
The home side did little for its cause through continually turning possession over in the admittedly difficult conditions but the players hung in, kept defending well – even heroically – and eventually hit pay dirt.
First they hit a short side on the left near the line, Konrad Hurrell did nicely to give Wellingtonian Jarred Wilson – signed from Penrith – his third try in two games. Tuimoala Lolohea’s conversion from wide out was beautifully judged to make it 6-12 just seven minutes into the second half.
Even allowing for the Warriors’ riposte, it could be argued the Cutters should have put the contest to bed at differing stages of the second half but had three would-be tries denied through the Warriors’ desperate last-ditch scrambling defence. Each time the Cutters were over the line and in the process of putting the ball down to score only to lose possession.
The Warriors weren’t without opportunities either but they wanted for some accuracy with their finishing touches.
Finally, reward arrived in the 76th minute when the New Zealand Warriors stitched together a wonderful try founded on some slick passing to set Wilson up for his fourth try of the season. Again Lolohea’s conversion was sensational. Now it was 12-all with about three minutes to play.
The Warriors were hunting down victory in a frantic finish. They set up for one field goal attempt which was well off target and then had two more attempts in the final seconds which weren’t at all close.
In the circumstances there was much to like for the New Zealand Warriors in coming out of this encounter with a point from the draw. It was the least they deserved after their battling second half effort.
The Warriors will enjoy the bye in round three while the Cutters will face a tough trip to Remondis to face the unbeaten Sharks.
New Zealand Warriors 12 (J Wilson 2 tries; T Lolohea 2 goals) drew with Illawarra Cutters 12 (C Runciman, P Mata’utia tries; S Duggan 2 goals) at Eden Park.