Canberra Raiders vs New Zealand Warriors: Five things we learned

Unbelievable scenes at GIO Stadium as the Warriors down the Raiders 20-19. Here's what we learned.

  1. 1 Warriors' best start to a season ever

    Since their inception in 1995, the Warriors have never won 3 games to start a season, until now.  In a season where many experts have tipped them to finish with the wooden spoon, no less.

    The impressive thing is not just the wins themselves, but how they've gone about their work.  They always appeared in control against the Rabbitohs and the Titans, but today they had to come back from a 19-6 scoreline with just 25 minutes left.  They never gave up; they never panicked.  

    They kept their energy levels high and stuck to their plans and picked the Raiders apart on the right-side with Shaun Johnson, Tohu Harris and Peta Hiku.  It's too early to get too excited, but the early signs are sincerely good.

  2. 2 Raiders just can't win close games

    Before the game the TV commentators mentioned that the last 35 close games (decided by 6 points or less) that the Raiders have played, they've only won 9.  Better make that 9/36.  25%.  More importantly, you can make that 0/3 in close games this year.

    Losing close games is one thing, but the way they've given up significant leads this season will be sure to have Ricky Stuart pulling what few hair follicles he possesses from his head.

  3. 3 Uncharacteristically conservative Raiders playing long game

    The Raiders of recent years are known for being an attacking threat from almost anywhere on the field, particularly with names like Wighton, Cotric, Croker, Leilua and Rapana in their backline.  At their best (in 2016), they had the confidence to know they had the skills to score tries when they needed to.

    Yet, today they showed two signs that perhaps they lack confidence.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but when they were up 12-6 and on the attack on the stroke of halftime, Sam Williams opted for an easy field goal to make it 13-6.  It seemed a sensible play; fair enough, we thought.  But it makes you wonder what the Raiders of 2016 would have done.  This writer posits that they would have preferred the cross-field bomb.

    Likewise, when they were up 17-6 in the 49th minute.  They'd just scored a try and were gifted a penalty in goalkicking range.  They took the two points to extend beyond two converted tries.  A good option, to be sure.  But uncharacteristic, and perhaps indicative of a lack of confidence.  Maybe the men in Green have forgotten how to win?

  4. 4 Captain Courageous in defence

    Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.  On his day, there aren't many players a true footy fan would rather watch.  His footwork; his speed.  His ability to tap on a quick pass to outside support.  Because of his attacking exploits, you hear little about his defence.  But today, if the Warriors' captain wasn't on the field, they don't win, because he had two courageous try-saving efforts.

    His first was in the opening exchanges.  The Warriors were on the end of a 4-0 penality count (soon to become 6-0) and Aidan Sezer had just sliced through the defence.  He was over for all money until 'RTS' hit him square and held on to him to hold him up over the line. 

    His second was in the 51st minute, this time hitting Rapana after he received an offload and stopping him dead in his tracks just a metre out from the tryline.  Without him, the Raiders would have won comfortably.

  5. 5 Shaun 'Ice Man' Johnson gets the job done

    Johnson is another that is mostly known for his running game and exquisite skills, but when the time came, it was his leadership and composure that came to the fore to guide his team home.  

    Down by a point with less than 3 minutes on the clock, Johnson instigated raids down the right-edge to gain easy yardage before positioning himself brilliantly to hit 2 Field Goals in 2 minutes to seal the game.

    It's a clear sign that Johnson is comfortable at the moment and a great sign for the Warriors and their fans as they look to convert this excellent start to the 2018 season.

    What were your takeaways from the Warriors 20-19 win? Let us know in the comments below.

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