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Combinations lack polish in Warriors defeat

By David Skipwith

Published: 9:20PM Saturday February 16, 2013 Source: ONE Sport

The Warriors' 32-18 preseason trial loss to the Penrith Panthers was not the start returning five-eighth Thomas Leuluai was hoping for in his second coming in Warriors colours.

Having spent nine years playing in England's Super League, Leuluai got his first run with the club that started his professional career back in 2003 when he became the youngest Warrior to take the field at that time, at just 17 years of age.

In front of 12,00 fans at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium, the Warriors got off to a positive start when Manu Vatuvei collected a Shaun Johnson cross-field kick and dived to score in the corner.

Shortly after however, a lack of organisation and some brittle defence left them exposed around the middle of the park. Three penalties piggy-backed the Panthers into scoring position and Josh Mansour's opening try gave them some momentum before former Warrior Lewis Brown collected a double in his first match against his former team.

By halftime they trailed 22-4, yet the second-half saw them improve to work tries for impressive youngster Ngani Laumape, fullback Kevin Locke and replacement winger Glen Fisiiahi. It wasn't enough however, with four-pointers to Lachlan Coote and Geoff Daniella sealing the result for the Panthers.

"It was a mix I suppose, a bit disappointing to be honest," Leuluai said of his own efforts post-match.

"The scoreline wasn't too good and it showed we've got a few things to work on. It showed that we're a new team, new players, new systems, and we just need a few more hit-outs."

With many of the Warriors top-liners getting their first run it was clear this 2013 side were finding their feet. New combinations looked just that, Elijah Taylor finding his feet at hooker, Johnson and Leuluai still aquainting themselves with each others play, and import centre Dane Nielsen also having his first outing with his new club.

Leuluai shared the general kicking duties with his halves partner and busied himself in defence, yet there were some scratchy moments on attack that revealed sharpness was lacking.

"It must get better after today to be honest," he said of his fledging combination with Johnson.

"I wasn't terribly happy with my own performance but we'll get there. It was our first hit-out, we were a bit rusty, but I don't want to be too harsh on ourselves too early.

"We definitely showed some good things there with the talent that we've got. If we tweak a few things I think we'll go good. We showed the offloads that we can play and we've got strike out wide and a lot of speed.

"It's just the stuff in the middle and maybe a few defensive things lacking. The intent and the attitude was there, and the other things you can fix, so there are positives."

"I'm honestly a little disappointed," coach Matthew Elliott said of his teams display.

"I'm equally as disappointed in myself with some of the structural stuff we gave the players to abide by, and I think that got in the way of our fluency.

"Dane and Thomas were really good actually. I thought Shaun defensively was what we needed as well, and I feel like what we gave them in attack has got a lot of potential, but I hindered them today.

"There's a good learning lesson for us but on the other side there were some individuals there that really put their hand up and said they want to play first grade and there's a couple of guys that need to show us that next week."

The Warriors meet the Brisbane Broncos next Saturday in their final pre-season match at Dunedin's Forsyth-Barr Stadium, before their season begins in earnest at Parramatta Stadium against the Eels on March 9.