General Vodafone Junior Warriors sting Hornets

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Auckland club champions the Howick Hornets could do little but admire what they were seeing when the were scorched 56-6 by the Vodafone Junior Warriors in a preseason trial at Cornwall Park today.

With several players no longer eligible for the NYC this year, coach John Ackland is having a series of hit-outs to assess the merits of the new faces he'll bring into the squad this year as the club goes in search of a third straight premiership.

Some of the Vodafone Junior Warriors' more experienced players were used today, most notably John Palavi, Omar Slaimankhel, Donald Tony, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Jordan Meads. Their class certainly showed through.

But a whole host of new faces and a few given some NYC exposure last year reinforced the depth the Vodafone Warriors have created through their development programme. That was underlined in last weekend's trials against Otahuhu and the Wellington Orcas 20s and even more so today. It could be said Ackland is spoilt for choice.

Taukeiaho made an instant impact with two tries in the first few minutes while Palavi displayed neat footwork for another touchdown. Meads provided nice touches, too, not least right on halftime when he executed a perfect one-on-one strip defending near his own line and then transitioned the side onto attack by immediately flicking the ball to his left.

A few sets of hands later, Ngataua Hukatai - signed from rugby union - had the ball on an overlap. The goal-line was 70 metres away but there was never any doubt he would score.

There were numerous other instances when the Vodafone Junior Warriors used quick hands and a plentiful supply of pace on the outside to cause the Hornets grief.

That said Howick did finish with something when huge prop Tony Tuia rumbled over for a late try.

The lasting impression, though, was excitement about the quality and depth of playing talent the Vodafone Warriors have at their disposal through a well-run recruitment, development and retention programme.
Another Vodafone Junior Warriors squad will take on the Manurewa Marlins at Cornwall Park tomorrow (2.30pm).

Match details:
At Cornwall Park, Auckland
Vodafone Junior Warriors 56 (Sio Siua Taukeiaho 2, Ngataua Hukatai 2, John Palavi, Toka Likiliki, Sione Feao, Viliami Lolohea, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Peta Hiku, Atu Tupou tries; Mason Lino 4 conversions; Braxton Stanley conversion; Ngataua Hukatai conversion).

Howick Hornets 6 (Tony Tuia try; Matt Holdem conversion).
Halftime: 28-0 Vodafone Junior Warriors.

Vodafone Junior Warriors: Omar Slaimankhel; Ngataua Hukatai, Peta Hiku, Braxton Stanley, Viliami Lolohea; Harry Vete, Jordan Meads; Donald Tony, Trent Bishop, Ligi Sao; John Palavi, Chris Ofanoa; Sio Siua Taukeiaho. Interchange: David Bhana, Vince Afoa, Sione Feao, David Fusitua, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Jethro Friend, Toka Likiliki, Shawn Marsters, Mason Lino, Nathaniel Peteru, Atu Tupou.