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Second-string Warriors dumped from Nines

NZN 4/02/2017 Angelo Risso

Warriors assistant Steve McNamara has defended his choice to run with a second-string outfit in the Auckland Nines despite being eliminated on the first day.

The former England boss, coaching the Nines side alongside Stacey Jones, could only watch on as his troops suffered losses to Manly and Parramatta on home soil.

The two defeats make a Nines quarter-final berth mathematically impossible for the club, with both victors progressing to the knockouts.

A bevy of Warriors stars including new skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Issac Luke and Simon Mannering were rested for the Nines with a view to the NRL campaign.

In their place stood mostly young players, including reserve-grade players Samuel Cook and Toff Sipley, but also stalwarts Ryan Hoffman and Blake Ayshford.

McNamara made no apologies for resting key 13-a-side personnel, as the club looks to secure a maiden premiership.

That caution extended to star halfback and Nines king Shaun Johnson, not risked in either loss after suffering a minor groin strain in the warm-up before the Manly game.

Johnson may be fit to play on Sunday but is unlikely to do so, given the Warriors' sole dead-rubber clash against St George Illawarra.

"We've got an eye on the NRL season but we wanted to respect this competition," McNamara said.

"Sometimes you've got to make the tough decisions, and decisions we all placed on what was right for our squad and team going forward."

In their first match against Manly, the Warriors were within inches of victory after an Ayshford bonus-point try.

However, a barging Curtis Sironen effort under the posts gave Manly a 15-11 lead heading into the last two minutes, which they managed to hold on to.

There was no such tension in their second game against the Eels, who dominated in a 17-0 walloping.

The side, including returning skipper Ruben Wiki, were booed off the field by the Eden Park faithful at full time.

"The second game was a bit of a gulf in class, you could see that," McNamara said.

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