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Heartbreak - Vodafone Warriors 14, Bulldogs 18

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Fuseworks Media
Heartbreak - Vodafone Warriors 14, Bulldogs 18

Auckland, New Zealand, July 12, 2009 - Heartbreak is a frequent visitor during any NRL season and it called on the Vodafone Warriors again when they succumbed to a last-minute try that gave the Bulldogs an 18-14 win in today's 18th-round encounter at Mount Smart Stadium.

With just two minutes left the home side led 14-12 after prop Russell Packer's well-taken 66th-minute try was converted by Kevin Locke.

The Vodafone Warriors were holding firm as they sought their third straight home win. But after an error deep inside the Bulldogs' territory - one of very few the Vodafone Warriors made on the day - the visitors swept downfield, piercing the Vodafone Warriors' left side before shifting the ball wide to the home side's right for interchange back Ben Barba to score the match-winner. The angled conversion was no real test for the master Hazem El Masri and the Bulldogs, beaten by Manly on Monday night, had secured an invaluable 18-14 victory.

If there was joy for them, there was only pain for the Vodafone Warriors who had dictated the course of the contest in so many respects without translating it to the scoreboard. Once again they simply couldn't put together a run of points when the flow of the game suggested they would. Much was made of the number of key players the Bulldogs were missing.

In truth the Vodafone Warriors were also without influential performers, not least captain Steve Price as well as centre Jerome Ropati, who was ruled out with a shoulder injury. And, of course, they also continue to miss the qualities Brent Tate would bring to the side if he hadn't been sidelined for the season.

The Vodafone Warriors began the match impressively, stitching together a superbly-constructed try for left winger Manu Vatuvei in just the fifth minute. But despite ample possession and position, they couldn't build on that lead and had to suffer the anguish of seeing the Bulldogs score just before the halftime break and straight after it to steal a 12-4 advantage.

It might have been worse just a few minutes later but Andrew Ryan failed to ground the ball as he was planting it for a try. Buoyed by that escape, the Vodafone Warriors worked their way back into the battle and in the 61st minute a Stacey Jones bomb to the right was expertly snaffled by Locke for his fourth try in only his sixth first-grade appearance.

He couldn't convert, but his side had some momentum. That was underlined only five minutes later when Packer, who had only just come onto the field for his second stint, was put across by hooker Ian Henderson.

There were opportunities after that to seal the deal but the telling final blow couldn't be delivered. The Vodafone Warriors, while lacking the all-important end result, put together a string of strong numbers as they completed 34 of their 43 sets. They made more than 1600 metres with seven players topping 100 metres - Wade McKinnon 149 from 17 runs,

Simon Mannering 144 from 15, Joel Moon 140 from 15, Manu Vatuvei 156 from 14, Packer 121 from 14, Sam Rapira a game-high 159 from 18 and Lewis Brown 111 from 16. The Vodafone Warriors are away next Sunday facing the Roosters as the Sydney Football Stadium before returning home to take on the table-topping St George Illawarra a week later. Match details:

At Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland Vodafone Warriors 14 (Manu Vatuvei, Kevin Locke, Russell Packer tries; Kevin Locke conversion). Bulldogs 18 (Michael Sullivan, Luke Patten, Ben Barba tries; Hazem El Masri 3 conversions). Halftime: 6-4 Bulldogs. Referees: Jason Robinson and Gerard Sutton. Crowd: 11,802.

To watch post-match media conferences for both sides please click on the links below:

Bulldogs: http://video.web-vision.co.nz/player.php?v=cr72j602

Vodafone Warriors:

http://video.web-vision.co.nz/player.php?v=u3c92d1v

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