David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

League: Warriors prop Ben Matulino 'embarrassed' by heavy trial defeat to St George Illawarra Dragons but says it was a timely wake-up call

Warriors prop Ben Matulino is wrapped up by Dragons defenders Mitch Rein and Mike Cooper. Photo/Getty.
Warriors prop Ben Matulino is wrapped up by Dragons defenders Mitch Rein and Mike Cooper. Photo/Getty.

Front-rower Ben Matulino admits he was embarrassed with his personal effort in the Warriors' heavy NRL trial defeat to St George Illawarra in Nelson last weekend, but says it was a necessary wake-up call ahead of round one.

Matulino believes his side were guilty of complacency following a solid start to the season that saw the Warriors advance to the final of the NRL Auckland Nines before belting an understrength Gold Coast outfit 40-18 in their first trial outing two weeks ago.

Big things are expected of the Warriors this season, with new recruits Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck bolstering their line-up, but Matulino says the eight-tries-to-two defeat to the Dragons proved they can't just expect results to fall their way.

"It was [disappointing]. I went missing," said the 27-year-old Kiwis international.

"I was pretty embarrassed when I walked off the field with how I had played. It was nowhere near how I wanted to play, especially heading into round one.

"We have to work hard to get wins and we all know we can't just expect to turn up in round one and win just with the squad we've got."

Matulino said coach Andrew McFadden "was pretty pissed off" with the leaky defensive effort but was pleased they had been taught a lesson ahead of their season opener against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown on March 5.

The timely defeat will ensure the Warriors don't get ahead of themselves. In recent years they have looked the goods in pre-season but then dropped off the pace.

"He was pretty pissed off and, at the same time, I think he was a little happy that it happened then and not in round one," he said.

"We'd been going pretty well over the past month in the nines and then with another big score against Gold Coast.

"He said we had got a little bit complacent and didn't turn up but that was probably a good thing that it happened to bring us back down to the ground. I've still got a lot of things to work on and defence is one of them."

The Dragons had come with plenty to play for after coach Paul McGregor had demanded an improved performance following their Charity Shield loss to South Sydney.

The visitor's forward pack played with a greater intensity and two former Warriors - Russell Packer and Leeson Ah Mau - relished the opportunity to dish it out to their old side.

"The Dragons wanted it more. They were led by their middle boys with Russell and Leeson," said Matulino.

"Russell was playing against his old club and it was his second game against an actual NRL squad. He was out there to prove himself and I thought he played really well and he pumped out a lot of minutes."

After stealing the show on the field, the Dragons pair them then took their former teammates to the cleaners in a post-match round of poker.

"Russell and Leeson came to the hotel afterwards and we just played poker in the team room," said Matulino.

"He stuck around for a bit and then took all our money and left."

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