The NZ Warriors didn't get the result they wanted, but coach Stephen Kearney was encouraged by the effort of his players in last night's 30-18 NRL trial defeat to Melbourne Storm.
The Warriors looked good in the first half at Sunshine Coast Stadium, but let slip an 18-0 lead, with Kearney opting to rest his star players after the halftime break.
But after being unhappy with what they dished up in last week's NRL Auckland Nines, Kearney felt the side began to show what they had been working towards throughout the preseason.
"There were some really good signs when we had a stronger side out there," said Kearney.
"We've worked pretty hard on a couple of areas over the pre-season and for the most part, I saw that come to fruition in that first half, so I was pretty pleased with that.
"It's something to build on leading into our next trial and obviously round one."
Halfback Shaun Johnson and new captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck orchestrated their attack well, but Kearney was more impressed by periods of good defence and strong go-forward from a pack missing former captain Simon Mannering and hooker Issac Luke.
With first-choice prop Ben Matulino to miss the first month of the NRL season through injury, hard-running Charlie Gubb was among those who put his hand up to help fill the breach.
"The work of the forwards, particularly trying to defend Melbourne coming out of their back-field, was a highlight for me tonight," Kearney said. "There were some really good performances through the middle of the field.
"Charlie [Gubb] was really good, young Isaiah Papalii was very good at the back of the scrum.
"Ken Maumalo was fantastic, and it was good to see Roger heavily involved and some nice touches from Shaun."
Johnson was similarly pleased with the side's first-half performance, and happy with his combinations with both Tuivasa-Sheck and right edge back-rower Bunty Afoa.
"It was a very good hit-out for us," said Johnson. "It was important for us to get those combinations going and I thought we did that in that first half.
"I've done a lot of work with Bunty and since Roger's come back, I've been able to train a lot with him as well.
"It's definitely a good starting point and we'll look to get better next week."
The Storm may have been without their international players, but Kearney felt their wider squad showed the benefits of being part of his old mentor Craig Bellamy's consistent and long-established coaching system and team culture.
"The point I made to the boys after the game was their players are a part of a programme that has been in place for quite some time and they all buy into it.
"For our young guys in their first time in our programme, [that's] what we endeavour to build.
"There's a good lesson for us about the basics of the game and about sticking at it, and then the opportunities presenting themselves. It was a good lesson for us in the second-half."
The Warriors will meet the Gold Coast Titans at Central Energy Trust Arena next Sunday in their last pre-season trial, before looking ahead to a Round One clash against the Newcastle Knights at Mt Smart Stadium on March 5.