New back rower Todd Lowrie capping his outstanding Vodafone Warriors debut with a try in Saturday night's historic 16-10 win over Brisbane at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium. Photo: Photosport.


A defensive transformation proved the catalyst for the Vodafone Warriors' important 16-10 win against Brisbane in Saturday night's historic NRL trial at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium.


After conceding 32 points against Penrith a week earlier in Hamilton, the Vodafone Warriors allowed just one try in 79 minutes of their third and final hit-out before they take on Parramatta away on March 9 and the Sydney Roosters at Eden Park on March 16 in the opening two rounds of the 2013 season.


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A performance which was a much-needed boost still came at some cost. Halfback Shaun Johnson was forced off after dislocating his right elbow and utility Carlos Tuimvave left the field with a broken hand.


And yet, despite those setbacks, the overall picture was an encouraging one two weeks out from the season opening.


The Vodafone Warriors may have slipped up in the final seconds to allow the Broncos a consolation effort but head coach Matthew Elliott took great heart from the stoic defensive work.


Without it the Vodafone Warriors would have been in serious strife. It literally kept them in the contest as their structure and attitude on defence denied the Broncos throughout the first half.


Indeed Brisbane had no fewer than four tries disallowed by the video referee in the first half and a fifth soon after halftime.


In front of a superb - and vocal - crowd of 15,345, the Vodafone Warriors were only sporadically in contention in the opening 40 minutes. Hampered by a high penalty count, they spent much of the half occupied defending their own line.


They did it so well the score-line was still an unlikely 0-0 in the shadow of halftime. Only then did the Vodafone Warriors have a sniff, breaking the deadlock with a Shaun Johnson penalty for a 2-0 lead.


Finally the defence yielded a try to winger Lachlan Maranta, falling behind 2-6 but the Vodafone Warriors seemed anything but concerned, not even when they lost Johnson.


Instead up stepped utility Pita Godinet to engineer two tries. First his delicately weighted last tackle grubber created a second try in as many weeks for winger Manu Vatuvei; and later he put new back rower Todd Lowrie across for his first try in his debut appearance for the club.


The other try was an opportunist one for Glen Fisiiahi, enabling the Vodafone Warriors to take a 16-6 lead into the final seconds.


Lowrie was exceptional in the middle of the park while, among the other pluses (and there were many) was the sight of Sam and Steve Rapira returning to the side after missing the Hamilton trial. Centre Jerome Ropati, having his first game in 10 months, had two stints and came through well pleased.


Godinet's story was a special one. He wasn't down to play this trial and was instead set to turn out for the Vulcans this weekend but, when Alehana Mara was forced out with injury, Godinet was brought in and made the most of the opportunity, especially when he replaced Johnson in the halves.


Of all the feats on the night, though, the most memorable for the crowd at the ground, a television sudience on both sides of the Tasman and social media users around the world wasn't part of the match at all.


It came at halftime when rugby league great Ruben Wiki, now an on-field runner for the Vodafone Warriors, brought the house down as he lowered a streaker with, shall we say, a perfect ball and all tackle. He might have turned 40 recently but Wiki most certainly hasn't lost it.


Another feature of the night came after the match when Vodafone Warriors captain Simon Mannering and the players spent an hour working their way around the perimeter oif the ground signing autographs and having photos taken. It capped a rewarding experience in the deep south as Dunedin had its first taste of NRL football.


Apart from the trial the visit has been highlighted by a busy community programme including a carnival attended by 500 kids on Saturday.


Match details:


Vodafone Warriors 16 (Manu Vatuvei, Glen Fisiiahi, Todd Lowrie tries; Pita Godinet conversion; Shaun Johnson penalty).

Brisbane Broncos 10 (Lachlan Maranta, Justin Hodges tries; Scott Prince conversion).

Halftime: 2-0 Vodafone Warriors.

Referees: Ashley Klein and Phil Haines.

Crowd: 15,345.


Teams:

Vodafone Warriors: Kevin Locke; Bill Tupou, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei; Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson; Sam Rapira, Elijah Taylor, Ben Matulino; Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering (c); Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Glen Fisiiahi, Charlie Gubb, Jacob Lillyman, Carlos Tuimavave, Pita Godinet, Jerome Ropati, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Steve Rapira.

Brisbane Broncos: Josh Hoffman; Delroy Berryman, Justin Hodges, Jordan Kahu, Lachlan Maranta; Corey Norman, Peter Wallace; Ben Hannant, Andrew McCullough, Josh McGuire; Alex Glenn (c), Matt Gillett; Corey Parker. Interchange: Scott Prince, Sam Thaiday, Ben Hunt, David Stagg, Mitchell Dodds, Scott Anderson, Jack Reed, Joe Bond.