The New Zealand Warriors scored an upset win over an understrength Canberra Raiders side already looking ahead to finals football.
Their season may be all but over, but the Warriors started the match with intent. Issac Luke gave the Warriors an excellent scoring opportunity after stripping the ball, but a Blake Ayshford knock-on prevented the New Zealand side from drawing first blood.
However, this came for Canberra at the 9th minute when Elliot Whitehead managed to bat the ball back before it went dead for Sebastian Kris to score, Jarrod Croker’s missed conversion saw the Raiders take an early 4-0 lead. Croker was able to make up for his miss by kicking a penalty goal four minutes later after the Warriors were found guilty of a crusher tackle pushing their lead out to 6-0. The Raiders gave the Warriors plenty of possession by giving away silly penalties, and at the 20-minute mark, the Warriors got themselves on the scoreboard when Lachlan Burr ran a beautiful line and crossed for the easiest try of his career, Luke’s conversion tied the match 6-6. The Raiders looked almost sure to score minutes later, but an excellent desperation tackle from Ken Maumalo kept the Warriors in the hunt and saw them surge up the field, leading to a try to Adam Pompey after some suspect defence from Aiden Seizer. Luke’s conversion handed the Warriors the lead 12-6.
The Raiders didn’t let being behind on the scoreboard unsettle them as Josh Papali displayed great strength charging through several defenders to score, Croker tied the match 12 all with his conversion. Canberra wasn’t finished just yet as Josh Hodgson, taking advantage of some weak Warriors marker defence scuttled out of dummy half and scored untouched at the 40th minute, Croker’s missed conversion meant the Raiders went into the break leading 16-12.
The Raiders started the second half how they ended the first when Bailey Simonsson cut the Warriors defensive line in two sprinting down the field, he elected to go himself instead of looking for support allowing the Warriors to prevent him from scoring, one tackle later and the Warriors alleviated the pressure with a successful ball strip. Both sides struggled to gain the upper hand until the Raiders scored a long-distance try via Micheal Oldfield, he hurt himself in the process but gave his team a 20-12 lead after Croker missed yet another conversion. Refusing to give up the Warriors looked to have scored in the 62minute, but the Bunker denied them the try, ruling that Josh Curran had interfered in the play with no real attempt at going for the ball. The Warriors did not let this decision affect them as Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scored after what felt like the longest last tackle play in 2019, with the Warriors captain touching the ball three times himself before finally crossing the line, Luke’s form with the boot continued as he converted once again, meaning the Warriors trailed 20-18 with 10 minutes remaining. The Warriors continued to throw the ball around, and it allowed them to open up the Raiders defence once again as Blake Green crossed untouched for the Warriors final try of the 2019 season, Issac Luke’s conversion gave the Warriors a 24-20 lead. The Raiders tried to get the match-winner, but the Warriors held on ending their poor season with a victory that will at least give their fans some hope for 2020.
With nothing to play for, the Warriors finally took the shackles off, and it worked for them. The Raiders have been good at restricting the oppositions offload chances, but the Warriors had a field day throwing 20 offloads during the match. If the Warriors could bring that attacking style into the 2020 season, they will be exciting to watch.
Papalii leading from the front
With several of their key players having the week off, the Raiders needed to rely on some of their senior players to lead the way for the youngsters, and no one did this better than Josh Papalii. By halftime, he had already run for over 100 metres and scored a fantastic try, and he showed no signs of slowing down in the second half ending the match with over 200 running metres. The Raiders will need Papalii to continue his recent run of form if they are to make a run deep into the playoffs.
Milne’s welcome return
After being given a lifeline by the Warriors, Taane Milne, at last, made his first-grade debut for the New Zealand side. He looked good out there, running hard and tackling harder. Warriors fans may be scratching their heads as to why he was not used sooner this season but should expect to see him feature more next season.
Goalkicking costs Raiders
Jarrod Croker had a shocker with the boot in this match missing three shots at goal; if he were a bit more accurate, the result would have almost certainly been in his side’s favour. This result did not matter for the Raiders season, but Croker needs to ensure that his accuracy returns for the finals where every point truly counts.
New Zealand Warriors 24
Tries: Lachlan Burr, Adam Pompey, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Blake Green
Goals: Issac Luke 4/4
Canberra Raiders 20
Tries: Sebastian Kris, Josh Papalii, Josh Hodgson, Michael Oldfield
Goals: Jarrod Croker 2/5
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 3. Adam Pompey, 20. Taane Milne, 4. Blake Ayshford, 5. Ken Maumalo, 6. Kodi Nikorima, 7. Blake Green, 8. Agnatius Paasi, 9. Issac Luke, 10. Leeson Ah Mau, 11. Adam Blair, 12. Isaiah Papali’i, Jazz Tevaga, 14. Lachlan Burr, 16. Ligi Sao, 17. Adam Keighran, 18. Josh Curran
Raiders: 1. Bailey Simonsson, 2. Michael Oldfield, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Nick Cotric, 5. Sebastian Kris, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. Hudson Young, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 16. Corey Horsburgh, 13. Ryan Sutton, 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Emre Guler, 17. JJ Collins