A star has been revealed in Charntay Poko as the New Zealand Warriors defeated the Sydney Roosters 16-12 in the NRLW season opener at AAMI Park.
The Roosters had their opportunities but the Kiwi women made the most of their chances, many created by halfback Poko, to earn the hard-fought victory on Saturday.
Warriors coach Luisa Avaiki said they weren't perfect but praised her playmaker Poko.
"She'll definitely attract a lot more attention after today," Avaiki said.
"It's been a long time coming for her because she missed out last year through injury and worked really hard over the summer.
"She was really excited to get out there today and had some really good touches. She's got a very good boot, we're pretty lucky, and she can give a really nice, long pass.
"We knew the importance of winning this first game. We've come with the attitude and mentality that we want to win, we want to compete to win everything."
Poko threw a beautiful cut-out ball for Hilda Mariu to score on seven minutes but the pass was called forward.
Instead, the Roosters opened the scoring when Simaima Taufa-Kautai crashed over thanks to a sharp pass from dummy-half Nita Maynard.
Poko booted a 40-30 just before halftime and the Warriors capitalised when skipper Georgia Hale scored next to the post to make it 6-6 at the break.
The Roosters had all the ball at the start of the second half but the Warriors' goal-line defence held firm before they marched down field and Poko scored against the run of play.
Roosters five-eighth Kirra Dibb made a sensational try-saving tackle on Onjeurlina Leiataua but the Warriors crossed minutes later when Atawhai Tupaea scored in the corner.
Roosters substitute Caitlan Johnston thought she'd scored in the final three minutes to set up a grandstand finish but replays showed a knock-on.
Taufa-Kautai bagged a double after barging over from close range but it proved the final play of the game.
Rooster coach Rick Stone backed his team to improve over the remaining two rounds and force their way into a second straight grand final.
"We were probably a bit clunky, first game it was never going to be perfect. When we get down their end, a little bit more patience and composure would be nice," Stone said.
"As it always is in the first game of the season, sometimes it gets a bit frantic and all over the place and we were guilty a little bit of that today."
Australian Associated Press