28 Sep 2014

Junior Warriors win a thriller

7:29 am on 28 September 2014

The Junior New Zealand Warriors have reached their fourth under-20 rugby league grand final in five years, thanks to a remarkable last-minute 29-26 win over the Parramatta Eels in Sydney.

Junior Warriors coach and club legend Stacey Jones

Junior Warriors coach and club legend Stacey Jones Photo: PHOTOSPORT

A sensational try to Tuimoala Lolohea with about 20 seconds remaining gave the Junior Warriors the win, but it didn't seem possible it could end this way with only two minutes to play.

After leading 19-6 at half-time and looking the most convincing side, the New Zealand side were anything but impressive in the next 27 minutes of the contest as their intensity dropped and they allowed Parramatta to take control.

The Eels scored twice in the early stages of the second half to close within five points and two more tries followed a little later, the momentum heading all one way with 20 unanswered points and a 26-19 lead inside the last 10 minutes.

As the match went past the 77-minute mark, Parramatta still led by seven points, but the Stacey Jones-coached side wouldn't be denied and wouldn't give in.

In the 78th minute the break came, Kurt Robinson arriving a little late at dummy half but just in time to sweep the ball up and pierce through the defensive line to score his first try of the year at the most vital time. Mason Lino converted and it was 26-25 with not much more than a minute to play.

With seconds to go the influential Lino went to the line, dummied and then the ball somehow came loose for Lolohea to pick up and carve his way through to plant the ball and secure the Junior Warriors' third straight win in the finals.

They only just sneaked into eighth spot via Lino's last gasp conversion in an 18-18 draw against Penrith on September 7th, and they now face the Brisbane Broncos in the final.

The match was the curtain-raiser to the second NRL semi-final at ANZ Stadium, where the Canterbury Bulldogs overcame the Penrith Panthers 18-12, to book a decider against the South Sydney Rabbitohs next weekend.