NZ Warriors under-20s keep title hopes alive
John Ackland may have fallen out with key figures at the New Zealand Warriors but the club's next generation of NRL-bound talent continue to put their bodies on the line for him as they kept their under-20s title hopes alive by thumping the Sydney Roosters 58-6 tonight.
Ackland finishes his second coaching stint at the Warriors when the Juniors' Holden Cup campaign ends - either next weekend or on October 6, Grand Final day.
Although condemned to take the hardest route to the decider, the sixth-ranked Warriors won through to a preliminary final against the Bulldogs next Friday by decimating the third-seeded Roosters in a curtain raiser to the NRL semifinal between Manly and Cronulla at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Five-eighth Tuimoala Lolohea led the onslaught with four tries as the Roosters - who ominously conceded five tries in the final 13 minutes against Penrith last week - were shredded with ease.
Ackland, who announced he was quitting at the end of the season in June after being unable to build a working relationship with Warriors head coach Matt Elliott, was given leeway to recall key players from the Auckland Vulcans for last week's Rabbitohs clash - hooker Siliva Havili and wing Viliami Lolohea for their second sudden death encounter.
Havili, in just his fourth appearance for the under-20s, almost opened the scoring in the ninth minute but had the ball stripped over the line by Samisoni Lagi.
However, from the resulting line drop out the Warriors muscled within range and prop Albert Vete could not be stopped by three would-be defenders.
Mason Lino, who converted nine of the 10 tries, added the extras and although the playmaker was dragged down 10-metres from the line in the 24th minute he managed to free the ball for halves partner Tuimoala Lolohea to cross for the first of a quick fire double.
The five-eighth also benefited when Sam Lisone busted the line before the half hour; the interchange forward then got put through a hole by Lino to essentially end a contest that bore little resemblance to their regular season meetings.
The Roosters won 24-20 and 31-26 but never threatened to complete a three-peat after being comprehensively outplayed in the opening half.
They fell off 28 tackles while the Warriors missed nine - and treasured possession to record a 90 percent completion rate.
Langi gave the Roosters a glimmer of hope three minutes after the resumption once a suggestion of obstruction was justifiably rejected by video referee Justin Morgan but the Warriors swiftly snuffed out the threat of a resurgence.
Eko Malu surged over from dummy half and after some scrambling goal line defence - and poor execution from the Roosters - Tuimoala Lolohea intercepted a Tyson Cornish pass to race 85m to complete his hattrick.
Havili also touched down between the posts before Lolohea waltzed to his fourth and Lisone brought up the half century before Kouma Samson completed the rout.
NZ Warriors 58 (Tuimoala Lolohea 4, Sam Lisone 2, Albert Vete, Eko Malu, Siliva Havili, Kouma Samson tries; Mason Lino 9 goals) Sydney Roosters 6 (Samisoni Langi try; Langi goal). HT: 22-0