The last shining light in the Warriors season has been extinguished with the Under-20s bundled out of the Toyota Cup by the Roosters 26-10 in Sydney.
After finishing second on the competition ladder, the Junior Warriors lost their first playoff game to the Raiders in Canberra last weekend, meaning they would need to defeat the Roosters to keep their aspirations of claiming a third-straight title alive.
But despite constant pressure and territory throughout the middle quarters of the game, the Junior Warriors ultimately lacked fifth-tackle execution and poise, sealing a humiliating end to their season.
Junior Roosters halfback Ryley Jacks and winger Chris Taripo were the stand-outs for the Sydney-siders, with their fingerprints all over the best of their attacking moves throughout the match.
Both were involved in the try by standoff Samisoni Langi that would ultimately secure the victory, with 10 minutes left on the clock, while Taripo would score one late try to rub salt into the wounds.
For the Junior Warriors, halfback Mason Lino's kicking game was poor, while standoff Peter Hiku, who heads to the Sea Eagles next season, failed to marshall the Juniors backline as well as he could have.
The brute strength of the likes of Ma'afutoka Likiliki and Ngani Laumape created the gaps and chances to convert pressure into points, but the Junior Warriors were wasteful, allowing the Junior Roosters back into a game they shouldn't have been in.
Shorn of the experience of first-grader Carlos Tuimavave pre-game, with the standoff unable to recover from an ankle injury he picked up against the Raiders, John Ackland's young men started poorly, conceding early tries to Jacks and Taripo.
But they battled their way back into the match, wrestling back almost 70 per cent of the possession in the second quarter of the match.
Winger Ngataua Hukatai would finishing an expansive movement that began with a break by centre Ngani Laumape, while David Fusitua would go over on the other side of the field, spinning out of a weak Usaia O'Sullivan tackle off a crossfield kick.
They would come out firing again at the start of the second stanza, with former first-grade Omar Slaimankhel, who departs for Japanese rugby at the end of the season, going close.
But the failure to convert pressure into points haunted the side again. Gradually the Junior Roosters would gain more and more of the ball, and their opponents began to look visibly exhausted after so much effort for so little reward.
Taripo would go over in the right-hand corner, but was disallowed the try for a forward pass.
But it would be young Auckland-born star fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck who would break the deadlock, getting low and rumbling over for a soft try after 61 minutes.
Taripo would miss the conversion, but would nail a penalty goal six minutes later to create a decent buffer.
It would be one they wouldn't even need. Langi would go over from close range off a stunning backline move, while Taripo would nab one late too.
Junior Roosters 26 (C Taripo 2, R Jacks, R Tuivasa-Sheck, S Langi tries; C Taripo 3 goals)
Junior Warriors 10 (N Hukatai, D Fusitua tries; M Lino goal)
- © Fairfax NZ News
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