The shadow Kiwis rugby league side was understandably just that against New Zealand Maori in New Plymouth today — a shadow of what they will require to be competitive at the World Cup.
Playing under the guise of the New Zealand All Golds, the Cup squad were predictably rusty at Yarrow Stadium, but were still too classy for another scratch outfit, running out 44-10 winners after leading 18-6 at the break.
The Kiwis, having endured a fractured build-up, at least looked more fluent as the game progressed with a number of National Rugby League (NRL) players not involved in the play-offs grateful for the run.
Benji Marshall fell into that category after the Wests Tigers missed out and produced some drifting, jinking runs to keep the Maori defence guessing.
Marshall constructed the opening try to a steamrolling Manu Vatuvei and took the first steps in building an influential halves combination with Thomas Leuleuai, who has been similarly underplayed after his Super League season finished prematurely.
The match also doubled as the final farewell for Kiwis stalwart Ruben Wiki, an occasion that cajoled fellow legend Stacey Jones out of retirement for a 20-minute first half cameo — and a couple more at the death.
Logan Swann and another departing Warrior Wairangi Koopu also bade farewell though the primary reason for the match was to give Stephen Kearney’s squad a workout before another warm-up match against Tonga in Auckland next Saturday — their final outing before the World Cup opener against Australia in Sydney on October 25.
Fortunately for Kearney, the Kiwis appeared to emerge unscathed as the Maori lost their sting, particularly after halftime.
The only concern was veteran second rower David Kidwell, who had a shoulder iced midway through the second half.
Though the contest was littered with handling errors — the Kiwis completion rate was an unsatisfactory 65 per cent early in the second spell — there were several positives for Kearney.
Fullback-elect Lance Hohaia, who will fill the void left by Brent Webb, continued the impressive form he showcased as Wade McKinnon’s deputy at the Warriors — his double complemented by solid defence including an early try-saver on Arana Taumata.
Taumata, the Maori stand-off, set up the underdog’s first try with a pinpoint grubber sitting up nicely for Shaun Kenny-Dowall in the 20th minute.
The converted try drew the Maori level but the All Golds then gradually took control to run in seven more tries.
Hooker Issac Luke and wing Sam Perrett were especially prominent while Vatuvei added a second when poaching a loose Koopu pass a couple of minutes after Hohaia scampered 70-metres down the left hand touch line to score.
A well-received try came after the hooter, an appropriate end for warhorse Wiki.
Swann took a quick tap after a Maori try was rubbed out and fed 55-test veteran Wiki for a 70m run to the line, admittedly aided by some half-hearted chasers that didn’t want to spoil the moment.
The 312-match NRL veteran just had enough gas to get to the line before Swann nailed the angled conversion.