Warriors edge Storm in Rotorua trial
The New Zealand Warriors overcame a depleted Melbourne Storm side to win 20-14 in their first hit-out of 2018.
In front of a sizeable crowd at Rotorua International Stadium, the Warriors were able to come back from a slow start to just get past last year's premiers – albeit without their front-line 17.
It took Melbourne just three minutes to silence the Rotorua crowd, with Storm winger Matt Soper-Lawler scoring the opening try of the match on the end of a relatively simple shift. Five-eighth Billy Walters, son of Queensland coach Kevin Walters, sliced through from 30 metres out before putting his winger away.
That was enough to wake the Warriors up.
The home side answered back on the 20-minute mark when Tongan internationals Ata Hingano and Solomone Kata combined from 10 metres out to send the centre crashing over the line.
With scores locked at 4-4 after two unsuccessful conversions, the arm wrestle continued with both sides guilty of some pre-season errors.
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney would however have been pleased with the combination of new recruit Peta Hiku and David Fusitua on the right edge.
The pair created several half breaks and were proving a handful to contain.
Following a dropped ball in their own end, the Warriors went on the attack and Hiku combined with his winger again to put Fusitua over for his side's second. Lino converted and the Warriors went into half-time 10-4 up.
The biggest roar from the crowd came at the start of the second 40 when local prodigy Hayze Perham ran onto the field for his first game as a Warrior.
The Kiwi side came out firing in the second half, on the board after just four minutes when Ligi Sao pounced on a grubber kick from captain Mason Lino to score.
Lino was this time able to convert and push the lead out to 16-4.
Melbourne had their chances in the Warriors' 20, fullback Scott Drinkwater looking the most likely to strike.
But the depleted Storm side failed to put any genuine set plays together and the Warriors edge defence was able to repel attacking raid after attacking raid.
However with 20 minutes remaining, a penalty gave Melbourne a piggy back down field and off the back of that hooker Harry Grant was able to dummy and muscle his way over the line from five metres out.
The try was converted by Drinkwater from right in front to bring the visitors to within six at 16-10.
Warriors winger Ken Maumalo's struggles under the ball unfortunately don't seem to have been addressed in the off-season.
Maumalo coughed up a bomb on his own goal line and Melbourne went on the attack with 10 to play.
Lucky for Maumalo, the Storm's hands again let them down, losing the ball in contact and letting the New Zealanders off the hook.
At the other end, the Warriors didn't have the same problems. A slick backline move saw Lino and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad combine to put winger Lewis Soosemea over in the corner and push the lead back out 10 points.
With three minutes remaining Storm winger Ryan Papenhuyzen, who was a standout all day, broke out from his own 20 and raced away to score and give his side a chance.
However it was too little too late for Melbourne, in the end going down 20-14.