A second try from Mounties fullback Zac Santo with 90 seconds left to play earned Mounties a thrilling come-from-behind 30-all draw with the New Zealand Warriors in an exciting Intrust Super Premiership match at Aubrey Keech Reserve this afternoon.
The draw maintains the Warriors’ undefeated record on top of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW table after seven rounds – however, it is the first competition point dropped by Ricky Henry’s men this season.
The Warriors started the match on fire, restricting Mounties to just one set of six in possession for the first 10 minutes of the match, and the visitors took full advantage of their early possession. First, half Mason Lino laid on a short pass to prop Albert Vete to score in just the third minute, before five-eighth Sam Cook strolled over to score near the posts in the sixth minute to give the visitors an early 12-0 lead.
Mounties finally held on to the ball for long enough for centre Reuben Rennie to score his first try wide out in the 15th minute, before the Warriors again asserted their first-half dominance.
Backrower Ofahiki Ogden crashed over from close range on the last tackle in the 21st minute, before winger Junior Pauga finished off a left side raid in the corner to give the Warriors what seemed a commanding 22-4 lead after 26 minutes.
Rennie completed his double 10 minutes from half-time to get the Mulga back to being 22-8 down at the break.
The comeback was on when Mounties half Lachlan Croker sliced through the defence on the back of an early Warriors turnover to score next to the posts just two minutes into the second half to bring the home side back to within eight points.
Journeyman interchange utility Yileen Gordon then finished off a slashing movement through the middle to score and Mounties were right back in the contest at just 22-18 behind.
As errors started to creep into both sides’ games, the Warriors appeared to give themselves some breathing space when another clever Lino pass saw centre Matt Allwood score out wide with just over 20 minutes to play. Lino’s conversion saw the Warriors lead 28-18.
The Mulga, however, were not to be denied. Santo showed great strength to reach out through two defenders and score his first try with 18 minutes left to again get Steve Antonelli’s men back to within four points after Isaac John’s conversion.
Gordon then dropped the ball with a try on and no defender in front three minutes later, before Lino landed a 30 metre penalty goal for dissent after a Mounties dropped ball with nine minutes left to again give the Warriors some breathing space at 30-24.
However, on the back of more Warriors turnover ball in the closing stages, the Mulga exerted enough pressure for Santo to score his second try with 90 seconds left on the clock. John converted to level the scores for the first time in the match.
Santo dropped the ball in the last attack of the match as the final siren sounded to complete the drawn result.
The Warriors will look to maintain their unbeaten record at North Sydney Oval against the Bears next Sunday, while Mounties will face Illawarra at WIN Stadium, Wollongong next Saturday in their next contest.
Mounties 30 (R Rennis 2, Z Santo 2, L Croker, Y Gordon tries; I John 3 goals) drew with Warriors 30 (A Vete, S Cook, O Ogden, F Pauga, M Allwood tries; M Lino 5 goals)