By Jamie Anderson at Leichhardt Oval
The NZ Warriors made the most of their eighth placed finish when they accounted for Mounties 36-28 in a highly entertaining elimination final at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Having only secured their place in this year’s finals with a last round win over the Bears, the Warriors ambushed an unsuspecting Mounties side as they shot out to an early 22-0 lead thanks to some glowing attack and a healthy breeze at their backs.
NZ international Siliva Havili opened the scoring in the 9th minute as he showed strength to get over from dummy half and then in the 16th minute they were in again when a short side raid saw Chad Townsend pop a ball inside to an unmarked Carlos Tuimavave who did the rest.
Further tries to Tangi Ropati in the 22nd minute and Carlos Tuimavave again in the 25th minute saw the Warriors almost keeping up with the clock as they had Mounties completely shell-shocked at 22-0.
Finally though Mounties awoke from their slumber as Jack Ahearn found some time and space down the Warriors left edge before putting Reece Robinson away for their opener.
And in the 32nd minute the margin was back to two converted tries after a great individual effort by Sami Sauiluma who dotted down for his 20th try of the year.
The margin was further reduced just minutes before half time as Mounties began to throw the ball around a bit and it paid dividends as a series of offloads eventually saw Tevita Pangai Jnr cross for Mounties third try of the half and with Campese’s conversion they now only trailed 22-16 at the break.
With momentum now appearing to be back with the men in yellow, and the breeze at their back, many thought they may well come home over the top of the Warriors in the second half but this was not to be the case.
The Warriors once again started the faster of the two sides scoring in the 60th and 65th minutes thanks to Michael Sio and Jarrod Tua respectively and as a result their lead shot back out to 20 points.
It was now once again up to Mounties to rally from a significant deficit, and try as they might, it was not to be.
Late tries O’Donnell and Campese gave them some hope but with time winding down they couldn’t find that extra gear required.
The season is now over for Mounties while the Warriors progress to a meeting with the Cutters this Sunday at Leichhardt Oval at 6pm.
NZ Warriors 36 (C Tuimavave 2, T Ropati, M Sio, J Tua, S Havili tries; C Townsend 6 goals) def. Mounties 28 (T Pangai, K O'Donnell, S Sauiluma, T Campese, R Robinson tries; T Campese 4 goals) at Leichhardt Oval.