The Canberra Raiders defeated a spirited New Zealand Warriors side 36-16 in front of just over 10,000 fans at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium. The win keeps the Raiders finals hope alive and adds to the Warriors’ woes with their sixth straight defeat. Here are six things we learned.
1. Raiders live to fight another day
The Raiders’ fight for a top eight spot lives on for at least one more week after winning in New Zealand. Canberra now have 24 points and are two wins outside the of the top eight. Defeating the Warriors shapes next weeks match against the Panthers up as one of the biggest games of the year. With both teams fighting for a top eight spot, and a loss quite possibly putting the Raiders’ season to bed, rugby league fans everywhere will be tuning in at 2pm next Sunday.
2. Missed chance costs Warriors
The Warriors were given the chance to attack the Canberra line early in the first half off the back of a couple of penalties. A pinpoint grubber kick into the in-goal sat up perfectly for New Zealand centre Solomone Kata but he couldn’t ground the ball, surrendering the possession and potentially six points. Just a couple of plays later, Canberra centre Jarrod Croker put winger Nick Cotric over for the 14th try of his debut season in the NRL. Kata injured his shoulder in attempting to score the try and was forced from the field, leaving the Warriors with 16 men for well over an hour. If Kata would have scored that try the whole game could have been a different story.
3. Raiders halves masterclass
They may have come under criticism throughout the year, but the Raiders halves have finally recaptured the form that they carried into the preliminary finals of 2016. Blake Austin was at his running best, slicing the defence open to score late in the first half. Aidan Sezer also continued his run of good form, with his pinpoint kicking game limiting the effect of the Warriors back three. His ability to take out Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Ken Maumalo and David Fusitua by intentionally kicking the ball over the sideline had a substantial effect on the Warriors’ go-forward.
4. Lino shows control
New Zealand may be missing their first choice half-back and cult hero Shaun Johnson but his rookie replacement, Mason Lino, showed that he has enough about him to take control of the side. In the 10 minutes following half time, the Warriors earned possession through the young half, whose boot forced three goal-line dropouts. It’s long been said that the Warriors have lacked a calming and controlling influence in the halves. With Kieran Foran moving on next year, Lino could be the perfect partner for Johnson in 2018.
5. Warriors’ errors proving costly
After crossing the white stripe with Tuivasa-Sheck in the 57th minute to reduce the deficit to eight points, the Warriors looked to create a late revival. In the following set they coughed up possession before Englishman Elliott Whitehead sent Joseph Leilua over for a try. That try extended the Raiders’ lead to 14 points before they sealed the win with another four-pointer just minutes later.
6. Raiders sweat on Leilua
Leilua exited the field prematurely after injuring himself in in the 68th minute. It’s unknown whether it’s a serious knee injury at this stage but if it is, it’s likely to rule him out for the remainder of the season. After running 110 meters and scoring a try against the Warriors, Ricky Stuart will be sweating on the health of their hulking center.
What were your highlights from the Raiders’ big win over the Warriors? Let us know in the comments below.
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