League: Warriors' class wins out after tough challenge

By Peter Jessup

The Warriors were slick in putting away a President's selection made up of eight of their own development players and the best from the Bartercard Cup at North Harbour Stadium yesterday.

The President's team kept up a busy interchange, using 21 players to maintain some parity in terms of fitness.

They put up a good effort, from prop where George Tuakura and brothers Phil and Artie Shead dented the Warriors line, through the halves with Dean Shepherd and Bernie Perenara making ground around the ruck, to centres Simon Mannering, who is at the Warriors, and 2004 Junior Kiwis team-mate Josh Davis, who is signed to Parramatta.

The Warriors were pressured on their line a couple of times and the President's XIII were unlucky not to have a bounce go their way to get more points.

But the NRL side had too much skill and were too efficient and fast.

Tony Martin had the first of six first-half tries when referee Dave Pakieto ruled a double knock-on and the centre sprinted away while others waited for the whistle. Fullback Brent Webb stepped the defence to set Francis Meli up for the second, Webb benefited from quick hands for try three and Jerome Ropati bustled over from dummy-half for the fourth.

Tevita Latu replaced Nathan Fien at hooker late in the half and made an immediate impact, getting the fifth try for his support play and Lance Hohaia had a simple run-in off a backline move for number six.

The Warriors opened the second 40 with tries to Webb and Hohaia, but then took their foot off the accelerator and allowed the President's side into the game.

The composite side, with a minimum of preparation, forced two goal-line drop-outs and sustained territorial advantage until Artie Shead forced his way over on an off-load from his little brother.

Superior fitness told after that, and the Warriors ran in two tries to Meli and another for Webb.

Warrior Rowan Baxter went well on the President's left wing, Wayne McDade at lock and Canterbury Bulls second-rower Chris Newton were busy and damaging on attack and defence. Perenara ran them well.

For the Warriors, Iafeta Paleaaesina was damaging in the middle, as was Ruben Wiki in the first half, along with Stacey Jones, who played a quiet but efficient game until relieved at the break. Clinton Toopi showed renewed determination at centre and Webb looked sharp and fast at fullback and was the best on the field.

The marker defence gave away too much ground off the ruck, though coach Tony Kemp said he was happy they didn't let the opposition get easy metres. There appeared to be more talk, more team work and better scramble on defence.

The second-half layoff must be of some concern, despite the removal of the old hands at halftime. Kemp said he was concerned more about the structure of the game than the score. They had been too sideways in their approach last year, but new hooker Fien had added some go-forward.

There were no injuries bar a head clash between Richard Villasanti and Monty Betham, the latter having stitches while Villasanti went to hospital for a scan on his neck.

NZ Warriors 58 Tony Martin, Francis Meli 3, Brent Webb 3, Jerome Ropati, Tevita Latu, Lance Hohaia 2 tries; Stacey Jones 5 goals, Hohaia 2. President's XIII 6 Artie Shead try, Ben Lythe goal. Halftime 34-0.

NZRL to look into tour plans

The New Zealand Rugby League's annual meeting at the end of March will consider an international programme that includes a three-game tour here by France, three games here for NZ Maori against the Cook Islands and a three-game tour of England for the Junior Kiwis. The JKs will also play a series against Australian Schoolboys.

The league is expected to reappoint the 2004 Kiwis selectors, Darrell Williams, Daryl Halligan and Tony Iro, with board member Keith Pitman as convenor. Kiwis coach Daniel Anderson has upgraded the collation of statistics on Kiwis prospects and each selector will name a team each week of the competition, so progress and consistency of players can be monitored.

The assistant Kiwis coach Brian McClennan is expected to be confirmed as coach of a revamped New Zealand "A" that will in future draw on professionals from the NRL and other non-residents, the majority of whom will be considered as developing towards the Kiwis.

Current NZ "A" coach Phill Prescott will retain control of the best Bartercard Cup players under a New Zealand Residents banner and Tawera Nikau is to be confirmed as NZ Maori coach.

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