Wigan too strong for NZ Warriors in Hamilton

LEADING THE WAY: Captain Sam Rapira on the charge for the Warriors.
LEADING THE WAY: Captain Sam Rapira on the charge for the Warriors.

Warriors coach Matt Elliott has no concerns out of tonight's loss to Wigan, and never expected to win the match anyway.

The English Super League champions tuned up nicely for their World Club Challenge match against the Roosters by comfortably beating the Warriors 46-22 in Hamilton, in what was the first-ever meeting between the sides.

The Warriors went down 12-0 early at Waikato Stadium but fought back well to lead 22-16, before the visitors ran amok in the second stanza, with young winger Joe Burgess collecting four of his side's nine tries.

After a very green side took the park in the opening trial loss to the Gold Coast Titans on the North Shore last weekend, this Warriors team had a lot more experience, with seasoned campaigners Sam Rapira, Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Jerome Ropati and Nathan Friend featuring.

However, Elliott was quick to point out that there were 18 of his players sitting in the grandstand and the scoreboard was never going to be a big factor.

"I think what you need to do is look closely at who played and when they played, so I feel fairly relaxed about the result," he said. "I wasn't over-optimistic about winning before the game. For a lot of our guys it was their first hit-out, for a lot of young guys it was an opportunity to play at a higher level."

Wigan used a 23-man squad for the game, while the Warriors used 28, with some players being plucked from the Auckland and Wellington competitions.

This weekend is the inaugural NRL Nines at Eden Park, before the Warriors' last trial, against the Brisbane Broncos in Dunedin on February 23, where Elliott will field his top side.

"We knew when this match was scheduled that we had to take a different approach to these first two trials," he said.

"We had to have a really serious think about what we wanted to get out of these games. You've got to push your ego aside a little bit, and what we've done is we've spread our resources and gained some from it as well."

Having last weekend suffered a loss to Huddersfield in their first Super League match of the season, then only arrived in New Zealand on Monday, the Englishmen put in a determined performance.

Elliott felt the match was a good hit-out for Wigan as well, but wouldn't be drawn on whether they could cause an upset next weekend.

"That's a hard one for me to comment on. If we had those 18 guys that are fulltime players that weren't playing, I would have been fairly confident that the result would have been dramatically different."

The Warriors will feature for a second time in Hamilton this year when they play an 'away' match against the Bulldogs in round 10.

Wigan 46 (Jack Hughes, Joe Burgess (4), Darrell Goulding, Gil Dudson, Sam Powell, Dom Manfredi tries; Matt Smith 2 goals, Sam Powell 3 goals) Warriors 22 (Chad Townsend, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Nathaniel Peteru, Nathan Friend tries; Chad Townsend 3 goals)

Fairfax Media