PANTHER PRIDE | A big win for the mountain men tonight has them firmly entrenched in the top eight, ...
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Leading just 30-26 with 10 minutes to go, they stormed home with three quick tries to blow the winning margin out.
Doing the bulk of the try-scoring damage was Vodafone Warriors veteran Lance Hohaia, who conjured up a true hat-trick with the Vodafone Auckland Lions' second and third tries in the first half and their fourth straight after halftime.
And backing Hohaia up was winger Malo Solomona who bagged two of the last three tries, lifting his season's tally to 14 in 17 matches. That now makes him the side's leading try-scorer, two clear of back rower Sonny Fai.
While he didn't score a try this time, Fai was a constant threat to Newcastle and had a key hand in at least three of the side's tries.
Scoring his first try of the year was utility Aidan Kirk while experienced NRL utility Todd Byrne opened the scoring after only four minutes.
With just an 18-16 lead at the break, the Vodafone Auckland Lions quickly surged to a 30-16 advantage only to let Newcastle back into it at 26-30.
An anxious period followed but in the last 10 minutes the home side took the match out of reach with their searing finish. With Tony Martin kicking nine from nine, the Vodafone Auckland Lions bagged their second successive win and also their biggest score in their debut season in the competition (topping the 42 points scored against the Western Suburbs Magpies).
Coming against a side that had been running second in the competition, it also qualified as arguably the best of the team's seven wins so far. It also kept alive hopes of sneaking into the finals.
At Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland:
Halftime: 18-16 Vodafone Auckland Lions.