The Intrust Super Premiership NSW has a new competition leader following a top-of-the-table clash that lived up to all expectation, with the Wyong Roos defeating the Warriors 20-14 at Mt Smart Stadium.
A high-quality, entertaining game of Rugby League resulted in the Warriors' first loss of 2017, with both teams performing strongly to assert their status as the competition's two best teams.
The Roos were bolstered by the late inclusion of Latrell Mitchell, who crossed for his first try in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW alongside fellow NRL regular Paul Carter, who was arguably the visitors' best. The Warriors, meanwhile, welcomed back Manu Vatuvei, who has been in and out of the competition throughout 2017, but all three of the aforementioned players put forward a big case to return to the top grade.
The New Zealand fan favourite wasted no time in getting his side on the scoreboard, taking a fine Sam Cook cut-out ball and bumping off Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck to cross in the corner. With Lino's conversion attempt waved away, the hosts enjoyed an early 4-0 advantage.
When the Roos hit back, it would be thanks to some quick thinking by one of their own NRL stars; a Matt Allwood knock on in the Warriors' 20-metre zone gifted it to Carter, who shifted the ball straight to Chris Centrone and set up the try. Cornish's kick sailed wide and scores remained locked at 4-4, but only briefly; a Warriors obstruction in their next opportunity with the football gifted the Roos a penalty in front of the posts, with Cornish slotting the goal for a two-point lead.
A fast-paced 20 minutes peppered with errors ensued, but a penalty against the Roos for dissent soon put them on the back foot. Cook made the most of the opportunity with a dive from dummy-half, catching the Roos napping as they only had eyes for decoy runner Albert Vete. With the conversion, the home side led 10-6 - a score line which would remain until half-time.
The second half started in brutal fashion for Wyong, with Tuivasa-Sheck feeling the brunt of a big hit from Tevita Satae. The visitors, however, would be the ones laughing just seconds later, as Centrone streaked away down the left touch line and linked up with Mitchell for the side's second. With the successful conversion it was 12-10 in favour of Rip Taylor's men.
Ten minutes later, the Roos extended their lead thanks to some more clever work from Mitch Cornish; the halfback double-pumped the ball close to the line before finding Luke Sharpe, who crossed for a well-deserved four-pointer. While the conversion attempt was unsuccessful, it put the Wyong side six points in front.
Things almost went from bad to worse for the Warriors, who had fallen away in the second half, when Centrone once again streaked away to score down the left touch line. A little toe on the line, however, saved the locals as the try was correctly denied.
With the Wyong defence holding strong as the Warriors had time in attack soon after, players were soon calling for a Warriors sin bin when an Albert Vete slap was noted by match officials. Clarification, however, came from the referee, who explained that slapping is only a sin-binning offence at NRL level and not in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW.
With 13 men on both sides, the Warriors' attacking set appeared lacklustre - until Allwood found himself with the ball on the last tackle. Some outstanding individual play to break apart the Roos' left-edge defence ensued and the centre offloaded to his captain Lino, who crossed for a simple try. Lino failed to convert and the Roos kept a 16-14 lead.
Sheer strength from Mitchell soon saw the Roos all but seal the result, with the centre showing why he is considered an NRL star of the future. While the missed conversion kept the Warriors within striking distance, time was running out and the home side needed to chance their arm in the dying minutes. A Lino line-break seemed likely to close the gap, before a Latrell Mitchell try-saver sealed the game for the visitors. The Roos ultimately handed the Warriors their first defeat of 2017, winning 20 points to 14 and reaching the top of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW ladder.