New Zealand 50 (Tries: Bryson Goodwin 2, Jason Nightingale 2, Shaun Johnson, Elijah Taylor, Manu Vatuvei, Kevin Locke (penalty try); Goals: Shaun Johnson 4, Bryson Goodwin 2, Kevin Locke) defeated Cook Islands 0.
It’s hard to, and can be risky to, read too much into a warm-up match in a World Cup tournament. However, both the New Zealand and Cook Islands camps will take several positives away from their damp and cold opening encounter at Doncaster. The majority of both teams will have sat on the NRL and Super League sidelines for at least a month and will have made the most of an opportunity to stretch their legs.
New Zealand Warriors five-eighth Thomas Leuluai was forced to sit the match out (groin strain), making way for NRL Grand Finalist no.6 Kieran Foran, who paired with an in-form Shaun Johnson to take on the men from the Cooks.
Forwards hit-men Frank Pritchard and Sam Kasiano made pleasing metres and gains along with Panthers-bound lock Elijah Taylor. Haka leader and Rabbitohs no.9 Issac Luke was at the forefront of most of the action, stealing the limelight from backline high-flyers Krisnan Inu (Bulldogs) and Manu Vatuvei (Warriors).
Green and white-wearing players Dominique Peyroux (Warriors) and Zeb Taia (Catalan Dragons) were the gallant standouts in the Cook Islands side, who put up a far stronger fight than the scoreline suggested.
Warriors fullback Kevin Locke made useful contributions with boot and ball when he made the paddock in the second half as did fellow Warrior Manu Vatuvei.
Player of the Match
South Sydney hooker Issac Luke was named Man of the Match, which is hard to dispute. Luke controlled the pace of the game from the outset and very much stood up in a display of on-field guidance and leadership.
Kiwis head coach Stephen Kearney will no doubt have a nervous night or two as he awaits news on Krisnan Inu’s post-match condition. The Cook Islands camp will take the positives they can from the match and hold their chins high as they prepare to take on the United States Tomahawks next.