The Warriors headed to New Zealand’s South Island needing to beat Melbourne and rack up a few statistics to steal the Pre-Season Challenge winner’s cheque from Manly but they fell short.

Neither team was particularly impressive with a raft of errors from the experienced campaigners who lined up at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch as well as the many rookies who were given a pre-season run by both coaches.

Both clubs started with line-ups heavy on NRL experience before emptying their bench in the second half with a host of youngsters getting some game time as Melbourne overcame a 6-0 half-time deficit to win 24-6.

Here are the key takeouts for each team heading into Round 1.

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Storm looked clunky 

Craig Bellamy has plenty of work to do before Round 1 to keep his flawless record in season openers alive.

With plenty of injuries to his squad – Ryan Papenhuyzen (knee), Justin Olam (arm), George Jennings (illness), Tariq Sims (calf) and Marion Seve (knee) – there are plenty of spots up for grabs for the opening assignment against Parramatta at CommBank Stadium on March 2.

The best-available spine of Nick Meaney at fullback, halves Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes, with Harry Grant at hooker, looked clunky, particularly in the Storm’s scoreless first half.

Meaney was not as involved as he should have been from the back while Hughes and Munster looked rusty in their combination with Grant.

Munster scored a try late in first half but was denied by centre Young Tonumaipea stopping in the defensive line after the five-eighth had caught a high Hughes kick, dummied and plunged over the line.

There did not seem to be as many wise old heads keeping the Storm cool calm and collected as there used to be with the Bromwich brothers and Felise Kaufusi gone to the Dolphins and Brandon Smith now a Rooster.

Niukore sensation

Former Eels forward Marata Niukore is just what the Warriors need. He could turn out to be one of the best buys in the NRL this season.

He produced a big hit to knock the ball loose from Melbourne’s forward Warriors forward Aaron Pene in the first half and from the ensuing scrum win, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s flowing mullet set sail for the line after running through a couple of feeble attempted tackles from Munster and Meaney.

Katoa, Warbrick step up for Storm

Eliesa Katoa is a certainty to be Melbourne’s right edge-forward for Round 1, a role filled by Kaufusi for several seasons.

The former Warrior showed he is ready to realise his potential at his new club, showing his size and strength and considerable pace to score after a Grant break in the second half.

Will Warbrick also impressed on the right flank, charging onto a Hughes pass to score the go-ahead try.

His first year after switching from New Zealand’s rugby sevens ranks was hampered by injury but he looks a fair chance of Round 1 debut with plenty of injuries out wide.

Warriors veteran Shaun Johnson. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Trial form matters for Warriors despite defeat

There are green shoots sprouting at the Warriors under new coach Andrew Webster.

It’s tough to gauge too much from a trial when each team used well over 20 players but especially in the first half when each team fielded close to its strongest line-up, the Warriors’ defence was again strong on the back of their previous trial win over Wests Tigers.

Particularly in last 10 minutes of first half when the Storm were camped down their end, the Warriors showed actual resilience and some starch in defence. 


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