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3 days ago
Preparing for the National Rugby League's (NRL) top sides isn't a problem, it's the strugglers that pose the most challenges, according to New Zealand Warriors coach Daniel Anderson.
The Warriors moved back up to sixth on the NRL table after upsetting second-placed Canberra 26-18 yesterday in an entertaining contest at Auckland's Ericsson Stadium. Next week, they travel back across the Tasman to face bottom club South Sydney, who have won just twice in 14 starts this season.
But Anderson wasn't expecting the preparations against the Rabbitohs to be easier than against the Raiders. "The easiest thing to get motivated for is a game against a team in the top three or four in the competition ? it takes no motivation whatsoever," he said.
"The challenge is playing teams where you're going in as raging favourites. And (Souths are) not playing bad football."
Against Canberra, the Warriors produced a dominant second-half performance to come from behind and beat opponents they had lost to a month ago.
"I'm rapt we got one back against the Raiders," Anderson said. "They got us in Wellington and they're a good football side. When you win against a good football side, it means you've gone all right too."
Second rower Logan Swann grabbed two first-half tries for the Warriors, but it was the Raiders who led 18-12 at halftime.
Kiwis forward Ruben Wiki, who continued his series of impressive displays against the Warriors, got one Canberra touchdown, while centre Joel Monaghan crossed twice.
But the home side came out fired up after the interval, levelling the scores after Richard Villasanti went over, and then going ahead when five-eighth Motu Tony sprinted across.
They sealed victory when centre Clinton Toopi, in an unexpected appearance in the run-on side after a month out with hand and hamstring problems, dotted down 13 minutes from the end.
Toopi's late inclusion in the team followed a reshuffle in which frontrower Jerry SeuSeu, originally named in the starting line-up, was rested altogether.
Anderson, also the New Zealand coach, said SeuSeu was "mentally a bit sapped at the moment", but would be back for the trip to North Queensland in a fortnight.
That would allow him to go head-to-head with Cowboy Paul Rauhihi, another contender for a Kiwis propping berth in the test against Australia in Sydney on July 25.
Anderson said he also wanted to do what was best for the Warriors in the run-in to the NRL playoffs.
The club had an impressive list of players waiting to get back into the side, he said.
Apart from injured forwards Ali Lauiti'iti and P J Marsh, they included SeuSeu and backs Lance Hohaia, John Carlaw and Justin Murphy.
"The blokes that are not playing at the moment are really firing in training, they're really challenging," Anderson said. "It's funny, when you have a really good win like this and you look around at the blokes in civvies, there's a pretty solid set of civilians there. It's good for us at the club, obviously."