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Lions downed by determined Balmain outfit
Balmain Ryde centre Rhys Hanbury snared a three-try haul to propel his side to a 28-18 win over the Vodafone Auckland Lions in their New South Wales Premier League clash at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday.
It was another shattering defeat for the home side which, in its last outing in Auckland, had been edged out 26-24 by Cronulla.
The Vodafone Auckland Lions boasted a line-up that had been boosted by a number of Vodafone Warriors first graders including halfback Grant Rovelli, hooker George Gatis, second rower Wairangi Koopu and centre Todd Byrne.
Rovelli and Gatis certainly had an impact early on. First Rovelli created an opening for his hooker to score in the 19th minute and, just two minutes later, the roles were reversed as Gatis cooked up a superb try for Rovelli.
That worked the Vodafone Auckland Lions to a 12-6 lead after conceding the first of Hanbury's tries in the opening minutes of the contest.
There were signs the locals might be on course to end a run of three straight losses.
But right on halftime, Hanbury was handed his second try to leave the teams locked at 12-12 at the break.
In the opening phase of the second half, the Tigers made further progress as first powerful forward Rod Griffin and then Hanbury added further four-pointers to take them out to a 22-12 lead.
Not for the first time this season, the Vodafone Auckland Lions were confronted with a salvage job.
They succeeded initially, too, when second rower Sonny Fai did the damage.
He had been in line to possibly make his NRL debut against Wests Tigers but ultimately finished up back in the premier league side, extending his run of playing in each of the side's matches.
Now he grabbed a vital try, his seventh in nine appearances, to bring the margin back to 18-22.
There was time left for the Vodafone Auckland Lions to push on for a comeback victory.
It didn't come, though, with the Tigers completing the day's scoring with a try to impressive hooker Stuart Flanagan.
The result leaves the Vodafone Auckland Lions with four successive defeats as they eye another away match in the next round, this time against Parramatta - their first-round opponent - on Monday week, May 28 .
At Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland:
Vodafone Auckland Lions 18 (George Gatis, Grant Rovelli, Sonny Fai tries; Steve Buckingham 3 conversions).
Balmain Ryde Tigers 28 (Rhys Hanbury 3, Rod Griffin, Stuart Flanagan tries; Ben Jeffery 4 conversions). Halftime: 12-12.