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A revived Stacey Jones engineered a rare Vodafone Warriors pre-season success when they beat Parramatta 20-10 in a rugby league trial in New Plymouth today.
The Vodafone Warriors finished their poor 2004 NRL campaign with six successive defeats, while their record in trials in recent years had been anything but impressive, including losses to all three pre-season opponents in 2004.
"Losing breeds a losing culture and we won only two of our first 12 games [in 2004],"said head coach Tony Kemp.
"So it was vital we started this new campaign off with a win. There's been a hell of a lot of changes during the off-season and I was really happy with most of what I saw today."
While Kemp was especially impressed with the defence, Jones' form was one of the glowing individual features of the display. In front of a healthy Yarrow Stadium crowd of 10,000 Jones showed off his full range of skills with a controlling hand in most of the Warriors' work.
"He went great," said Kemp. "He was in most of what went on out there and we're looking for a good season from him. I think we all know what happened to Stacey last year but he's a hell of a lot leaner and a hell of a lot fitter."
Jones echoed the coach?s thoughts about the players? physical condition.
"Everyone's lost a few kilos, we've all got our body fat down and we're better for it," he said. "I think definitely the signs are there that we're in for a good season and even though it was only a trial, it's good to start the year off with a win."
Starting this trial without a number of established first graders - including new signings Steve Price and Nathan Fien - the Vodafone Warriors put together solid passages to build a 16-4 halftime lead.
Tony Martin intercepted a pass from Eels halfback Tim Smith to scoot 90 metres for the opening points of the match, Jones? conversion making it 6-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The second 20 minutes found the Vodafone Warriors in their best shape on the day despite first conceding a try to Eels winger Luke O?Dwyer, who latched onto a grubber kick rolled in behind the Vodafone Warriors? defence.
Soon enough, though, the setback was remedied when Clinton Toopi scored after a teasing Jones run exposed Parramatta?s right-side defence. Jerome Ropati linked with his halfback, drew three defenders and off-loaded for Toopi to stroll across. From wide out, Jones extended the margin to 12-4.
On the 34-minute mark, Martin scored his second after newcomer Todd Byrne had tidied up a loose pass, angled infield and fed the ball back outside where Martin had looped around to collect for a try right in the corner. Jones was just astray with the difficult kicking assignment.
A 12-point lead widened to 20-4 four minutes into the second half when Toopi got on the outside edge of Parramatta?s defence, breaking from halfway and drawing the cover to put Francis Meli in wide out.
The match was scoreless for the next 34 minutes, but not without the Vodafone Warriors threatening several times. Inside the last two minutes, Parramatta closed the gap with a converted Chris Muckert try.
That still did nothing to temper optimism about the Warriors' effort. Instead the result generated a sense the club has made a decisive move in the right direction to remedy 2004's disappointments.
VODAFONE WARRIORS 20 (Tony Martin 2, Clinton Toopi, Francis Meli tries; Stacey Jones 2 goals), PARRAMATTA (Luke O?Dwyer, Chris Muckert tries; Brett Delaney goal).
Halftime: 16-4 Warriors.
Referee: Steve Clark.