General Raiders Take Out North Harbour Trial


From the official website of the Vodafone Warriors,

Vodafone Warriors coach Ivan Cleary was encouraged by the performances put up by props George Tuakura, Evarn Tuimavave and Sam Rapira in today's NRL trial against Canberra at North Harbour Stadium.

The Raiders, ahead 22-0 at one point, had to withstand a pulsating third-quarter comeback by the Vodafone Warriors before prevailing 28-16.
But while the result wasn't what Cleary wanted, he said many of the individual displays were impressive.

In that category he singled out 30-year-old Tuakura, who was a starter in his first appearance for the club. Signed last year, Tuakura imposed himself with some potent charges, one of which sparked a dazzling movement which ought to have finished with a try in the opening minutes. At other times, Tuakura was also punishing on defence.

His starting front row partner Tuimavave also played strongly. While he made his debut in late 2002, he's still only 21 and was one of four props given an opportunity today to push for a place in the front-line squad as back-ups for veterans Steve Price and Ruben Wiki.

Also making his club debut was 2005 Junior Kiwi captain Rapira, who came into the game off the bench. The 18-year-old showed he will be pushing for an NRL spot this season.

While pleased with many individual efforts, Cleary said the team hadn't matched expectations on the day. At the same time, four quarter football and disruptions to combinations with injuries - including a shoulder niggle for standoff Sione Faumuina - hadn't helped.

"I'm certainly glad we've got three trials," he said.

The first trial of the year had a promising beginning when the Vodafone Warriors dominated territory and possession in the first quarter before conceding a try against the flow of the game to Raiders halfback Lincoln Withers.

In a soft second 20-minute period, the Vodafone Warriors conceded two tries - one to Clinton Schifcofske and the other to rookie Ryan Hinchcliffe - which enabled the Raiders to take a 16-0 lead. That was extended to 22-0 soon after half-time when David Milne touched down.

It was then that the Vodafone Warriors stormed into the contest with three tries in quick succession, winger Todd Byrne grabbing the first through a healthy overlap followed by a sharp try to Tony Martin in his first game in almost a year. Coming back from neck surgery, Martin beat Canberra's defence on the outside to score wide out to cut Canberra's lead to 22-10.

Minutes later that became 22-16 when replacement winger Cooper Vuna took a last tackle kick by Canberra on the fly deep inside his territory, cutting through and then past defenders to score 70 metres later. Martin piloted the conversion from the sideline.

But the comeback stalled there, Canberra grabbing a fifth try through Alan Tongue early in the final quarter to round out the scoring.

The Vodafone Warriors fly to Cairns next Friday where they play North Queensland the following night in their second trial. Their final build-up match is against the Bulldogs in Carrara on February 25.

In the early game, a Jason Lowrie-coached Harlour League combination beat the Vodafone Warriors' elite development side 48-22. Centre Patrick Ah Van, who also turned out in the NRL trial, scored two smart tries while Marvin Filipo and 16-year-old Constantine Mika grabbed the others.

In a trial played last night, the Melbourne Storm - the Vodafone Warriors' first-round NRL opponents on March 12 - beat Parramatta 38-18. Brisbane swamped the Cowboys 36-4 in Rockhampton in another pre-season match.

North Harbour Stadium NRL trial details:
VODAFONE WARRIORS 16 (Todd Byrne, Tony Martin, Cooper Vuna tries; Tony Martin 2 conversions).

CANBERRA 28 (Lincoln Withers, Clinton Schifcofske, Ryan Hinchcliffe, David Milne, Alan Tongue tries; Clinton Schifcofske 4 conversions).

Crowd: 11,000.

Referee: Craig Pascoe (Auckland).

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