It was an impressive showing from the NZ Warriors, beating the fancied Storm in last nights trial and welcoming back club legend Stacey Jones. Running out winners 24-12 it was an ideal hit out for the Kiwi’s as they flexed some muscle in Hamilton.
Stacey Jones got a 20 minute early stint with his side, showing no signs of cobwebs after a 1 year layoff from the game. The little general immediately looked comfortable and played a role in the Warriors first touch down for Wade McKinnon.
It was a good turn out from the Hamilton locals also, with up to 11,000 fans filing into Waikato Stadium to see the NRL trial game and obviously get to see the wares of former club hero Stacey Jones. Officials pleased with the turnout after heavy rains hampered their initial predictions.
Melbourne got on the board through rookie flanker Willie Isa after the Warriors were ahead 6-0, but the NZ side was in the action again soon after with Lance Hohaia setting up Aidan Kirk with an impressive try.
Fitness may have been an issue as both sides struggled with cohesion in the second half, Melbourne coughing the ball up several times and eventually gifting the Warriors points through rookie Daniel O’Regan.
Stacey Jones was given more game time by coach Ivan Cleary in the final 20 minute term, but the Storm crossed during this period through Joseph Tomane – but the Warriors put it beyond doubt with big Manu Vatuvei scoring in the final minutes of the game.
While a confidence booster for the Warriors and former star Stacey Jones; both sides played without their contingency of NRL stars – with Storm hooker Cameron Smith and big names Greg Inglis and Billy Slater out of the Storm side and Warriors’ kept the likes of Steve Price, Brent Tate, Nathan Fien – who are all yet to recover fully from injuries.
There was a mark of respect for missing Warrior Sonny Fai, with the side wearing black arm bands for their fallen teammate. The result an ideal return to the park, to possibly take the minds off such a tradgedy over a month ago.
The Warriors will meet the Cowboys next up at North Harbour Stadium on Feb 22.