Competition - Intrust Cup - Newcastle Knights v New Zealand Warriors - Saturday 11June 2016, Hunter Stadium Broadmeadow NSW - Photographer Shane Myers © nrlphotos.com

With a line-up including seven NYC-eligible players, the New Zealand Warriors have muscled up to take out a tense contest 12-8 over competition leaders Illawarra in today’s Round 18 Intrust Super Premiership NSW clash at Mount Smart Stadium #2.

The result leaves a three-way tie on 26 points at the top of the table, with the Warriors joining Illawarra and Mounties following their 11th win of the season.

Mounties will take the competition lead outright if they beat Newcastle.

It was the third time in four weeks that the Warriors have been involved in an arm wrestle after beating Newcastle 34-32, losing to Wests Tigers 16-18 and now taking out a low-scoring affair by just four points.

It was a terrific result for a young Warriors side against in-form Illawarra.

Coach Stacey Jones had two for NYC players in his line-up with centre Junior Pauga and wing Lewis Soosemea making their ISP debuts alongside other NYC-eligible players Ata Hingano, Nathaniel Roache, Bunty Afoa, Ofahiki Ogden and Erin Clark. Roache and Afoa have both made their NRL debuts this season, Afoa called up for his first match just last week.

It was clear from the outset that this would be a a grinding affair with neither side able to break through in the opening quarter although the Vodafone Warriors applied ample goal-line heat in the early stages.

It was the 23rd minute before the deadlock was broken with Dunamis Lui going across for a try Levi Dodd converted.

The Vodafone Warriors returned serve when loose forward Jazz Tevaga went over from close range following a great break by Hingano. Mason Lino converted to leave the teams level 6-6 at the break.

The visitors nudged ahead 8-6 with a Dodd penalty in the 54th minutes and there the score stayed closing in on the last 10 minutes.

Then the breakthrough for the Vodafone Warriors, wing Viliami Kaveinga collecting a short kick over Illawarra’s defensive line to go over in the corner. Lino’s conversion was brilliant and the home side had a 12-8 advantage.

The Cutters applied plenty of pressure in the tense final minutes, going close only for centre Taane Milne to loose possession near the line.

They couldn’t find a way through, the Warriors holding on for a meritorious victory against a side including former Warriors hooker Siliva Havili.