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NRL: Vodafone Warriors 25, Titans 24

NRL: Vodafone Warriors 25, Titans 24

Auckland, New Zealand, May 05, 2013 – The Vodafone Warriors found themselves in their fifth tight finish in consecutive games but this time they were able to hold off a fast-finishing Gold Coast side to take out today's eighth-round NRL clash 25-24 at Mount Smart Stadium.

With 15 minutes to play, the Vodafone Warriors had a seemingly comfortable 24-6 lead only to see it whittled down to just six points in the space of six minutes.

It left the Vodafone Warriors in the familiar predicament of holding a narrow lead heading into the final minutes. They'd been in that position in each of their previous four matches against North Queensland, South Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne only to finish up with narrow defeats in the last three contests.

This time the scoreboard read 24-18 with nine minutes to play, setting up an anxious final stanza as the Titans kept coming downfield to pile on pressure. Each time, though, the Vodafone Warriors turned them away, finally setting up a field goal opportunity for Shaun Johnson with less than two minutes left. He obliged to secure a critical seven-point lead.

The Titans sneaked a try in the final seconds but by then they also knew they couldn't win the match, enabling the Vodafone Warriors to celebrate their second win this season to move up to 14th place on the table.

Manu Vatuvei, returning from injury for only his second game of the year at Mount Smart Stadium, had a telling influence throughout and especially in the opening 15 minutes.

It was the first time Vatuvei had played outside his long-time centre partner Jerome Ropati since early April last year, their understanding immediately in evidence as they combined down the left edge. Slick ball work from Thomas Leuluai, Kevin Locke and finally Ropati enabled Vatuvei to power across in the corner for his third try of the season. And minutes later he soared expertly to tap a perfectly-placed Leuluai bomb straight into Feleti Mateo's hands for the second try of the day (and Mateo’s first of the season).

While Gold Coast countered with a Jamal Idris try, the Vodafone Warriors restored their 10-point advantage almost immediately. Captain Simon Mannering squeezed out a great off load, Locke backed up linking with centre Ben Henry who offloaded to put Bill Tupou in, the winger running around cleverly to narrow the angle for Johnson.

Ahead 16-6 at the break, the Vodafone Warriors went 14 points clear early in the second half when Johnson contested a Leuluai bomb, popping the ball up with one hand and then gathering it to score a try scrutinised by the video referee before being awarded.

Johnson couldn’t convert but the 20-6 scoreline soon stretched to 24-6 when hooker Pita Godinet’s smart play put the impressive Henry across. Again Johnson was unable to convert, leaving the Vodafone Warriors three converted tries clear.

Ultimately it proved enough although not before the heart flutters caused by Gold Coast’s late recovery.

The winning performance was founded on improved defence, the statistics showing just 17 missed tackles, the Titans missing 25. Against that the errors read 14 to the Vodafone Warriors and only seven to the Titans with the completion rates 27 from 39 (69 per cent) for the home side and 31 from 36 (86 per cent) for the visitors.

ENDS

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