The Canberra Raiders have continued their late season march to the NRL Finals with a comfortable 36-16 victory over the struggling New Zealand Warriors. The loss now compounds the Warriors to their sixth straight loss, while it’s three in a row for the Raiders.
Blake Austin Switch
It was no secret that Blake Austin hasn’t been himself this season, but he may have just played himself back into form. Austin was sensational against the Warriors, he looks to be hitting his straps at the right time of the season. After rumours of a rift with flamboyant centre Joey Leilua, Austin has moved from the right side of the field to the left and hasn’t it worked wonders. The left side of the Green Machine were unstoppable yesterday, Austin bagged himself a try after he threw a huge dummy, Cotric bagged himself a double and Croker also crossed the line. Austin was directly involved in three tries, with a try assist going down in his name. The charismatic number six also ran for 93 metres, made three tackle breaks, put on two line break assists and made a linebreak of his own. Many remember Blake Austin’s 2015 season where he was crowned Dally M Five-Eight of the year and many questioned how could it all go so pear shaped so quickly, well we may still that Blake Austin and he may have arrived just in time for the playoffs.
The New Zealand Warriors were never in the game at any stage yesterday. The men from New Zealand looked like a side that had nothing to play for, their season goes from bad to worse. Without Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson they lack a lot of direction, Isaac Luke is no longer the player he once was and the forward pack did little to help the cause. After going into halftime 18-6 down, the Warriors responded pretty well, they scored the next try and had a lot of the ball on Canberra’s line but the play after scoring points, Ken Maumalo dropped the ball and gifted Canberra valuable field position which let Canberra pile on three more tries. New Zealand have had a 2017 season to forget, they will now look to win their final remaining games to give fans a glimmer of hope for next season but they need a lot more work if they are going to play in the finals anytime soon.
Yes they CANberra
A couple of weeks ago you would have sounded like a fool if you thought Canberra could make the NRL Finals, but after three consecutive wins and with their attack flowing again, you would back them to win the remaining three games and consolidate an unlikely finals spot. After their astounding win yesterday, they have now won three in a row all by considerable margins and scoring 30 points or more in all three games. While they seem to have found their mojo in attack, it’s Canberra’s defence which is also thriving. They have outscored their opponents in the past three weeks by a grand total of 98-46 which has helped the for and against rapidly which may just see them squeeze inside the top eight. The Green Machine host Penrith on Sunday afternoon, with the recent form of both sides and the position they’re in, this could be an absolute blockbuster with plenty to play for. Canberra must win it’s simple as that. Green Machine fans you can dare to dream.
Future of the Warriors
With current owner Eric Watson about to sell the club, many ask what’s next for the Warriors. It’s been nothing but misery since 2011. Every season they go in touted to make the playoffs and push for the premiership, but their superstar roster can’t seem to come up with any answers. Boasting the New Zealand Kiwi’s spine and many international players, they just can’t gel as a unit. Already losing Kieran Foran to the Bulldogs and releasing Tui Lolohea mid-season to the Wests Tigers, they must find a suitable partner for Shaun Johnson and from all reports no high profile player wants to move across the ditch. It’s a sad case because they could be something really special and the people from New Zealand want to see a team they’re proud of. They must build on what they have in order to challenge for a playoffs spot next season but it isn’t looking likely, dark times ahead.
Canberra Raiders 36
Tries: Nick Cotric (2), Jarrod Croker, Blake Austin, Jordan Rapana, Joey Leilua
Goals: Jarrod Croker 6/6
New Zealand Warriors
Tries: David Fusitua, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Isaiah Papali’i
Goals: Mason Lino 2/3