League: Cleary issues warning after 'kick in the guts' (+photos)

By Robert Lowe

Coach Ivan Cleary has warned some of his players that they aren't doing enough after the New Zealand Warriors received a "kick in the guts" from the National Rugby League's bottom team.

The Warriors were upset 35-28 by South Sydney in Auckland last night after twice throwing away the lead, including a 14-0 start.

There was plenty of jubilation for the visitors, who recorded just their second win in 12 matches this season and who hadn't beaten the Warriors since 1999.

But for Cleary, there was just disappointment that his side, the second worst in the league in defence, had again leaked plenty of points.

Defence was his key concern at the moment, he said.

"You just can't expect to keep conceding points and expect to win games."

Cleary said some players, like stand-in skipper Micheal Luck, were doing their job week-in week-out.

"There's a few, unfortunately, who aren't," he said.

"Until we get the full team doing it, then there are problems."

Asked if the he was about to swing the axe, Cleary said: "I'm going to have to think about selecting the team with a view to defence."

The Warriors had been firm favourites to beat Souths.

Had they done so, they would have reached the mid-point of the season knocking on the door of the top eight.

Instead, they remain in the bottom quarter of the table and with plenty to do if they want to reach the playoffs for a second year in a row.

"If we had got the points [against Souths], we would have got halfway through thinking we might be able to build something," Cleary said.

"It's not to say we can't, but it's a bit of a let-down, a bit of a kick in the guts. But we're a pretty resilient bunch. We'll give our best to get off the floor and keeping punching away."

Souths skipper Roy Asotasi said he and his tea-mates had been through a tough period and they would savour the victory.

"It was like we had won a grand final out there," the Kiwi test captain said.

"It showed how much effort the boys had put in each week."

Asotasi said the match venue had provided extra motivation for the Rabbitohs' large New Zealand contingent.

"It's always good to come back home," he said.

"A few boys were excited to see their families and they wanted to perform in front of them."

The match was a topsy-turvy one, with each side scoring in bursts.

There were six tries apiece, with winger Michael Crockett getting three for the Warriors, but the Rabbitohs were able to gave their kickers easier conversion attempts by dotting down closer to the posts.

After conceded the first three tries, Souths nabbed the next four to go 22-14 up early in the second half.

The Warriors struck back with three quick touchdowns to edge back ahead 28-22 with a quarter of an hour to go.

But two late tries put the Rabbitohs back in front and NRL debutant Chris Sandow sealed victory with a last-minute drop goal.

- NZPA

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