In a match where possession and attacking position was hard to find, the Canberra Raiders have fallen to the Warriors 30-8 across the Tasman at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
After pushing tied competition leaders in the Cowboys last week, Canberra were looking to build on the effort that almost saw them win last week. However a well composed and controlled Warriors side starved the number one attacking side in the NRL of good attacking field position and eventually points.
With Canberra only receiving 37% possession and having to make over 100 tackles more than the Warriors, the Raiders were left with the task of taking the ball out of their own end instead of at the other end in attack.
With the first half ending 14-8 in favour of New Zealand, the Green Machine was optimistic considering the lack of possession the enjoyed. Although as the game continued on the Warriors proved too strong as they put on 16 points unanswered in the second half.
The Warriors were first to score in a fiery opening 10 minutes through some strength shown by Bodene Thompson.
As the ball made its way to the right side attack of New Zealand, Thompson took the ball under his wing and beat the one on one tackle from Croker to open the scoring. With Johnson successfully converting after 12 minutes the Warriors were in front 6-0.
After having to defend their goal line for several sets it was then Canberra’s turn to show their attacking ability. A stunning set play worked perfectly in the 20th minute to open up the scoring for the Raiders.
The ball came from dummy half out to Hodgson who passed to Soliola, he then provided a great inside ball to the hard running Jack Wighton, who muscled his way over the try line. Captain Croker converted and the scores were tied 6-6.
With the advantage firmly in the hands of Canberra, the Green Machine then took the opportunity to take a gift two point conversion to take an 8-6 lead with 13 minutes left in the first half.
Although Canberra looked to have gained the advantage it didn’t take long for the Warriors to quickly steal it back.
Another attack down the right side saw New Zealand take points with Konrad Hurrell running over Jarrod Croker to then give an offload mid-tackle to Lolohea who scored their second try of the half. Johnson again converted the kick to regain the lead 12-8.
As the first half began to wind down the Warriors were able to extend their lead through a penalty conversion to make the score 14-8.
To rub salt into the wound, the Raiders were dealt a harsh blow with Rapana leaving the field with what seemed like a lower leg injury.
The second half then started in disaster for the Green Machine, with Shaun Johnson producing some breath taking footwork.
After taking the ball to the line Johnson stepped his way through the Raiders defence to score, after converting his own try the Warriors were leading 20-8 after 47 minutes.
What looked like an even contest in the first half quickly blew out to New Zealand running riot in the second.
Johnson was again involved as he grubbered the ball behind the Raiders goal-line defence, Wighton opted to let the ball run dead, although a fast footed Lolohea managed to put a hand on the ball just before it went dead in goal to score his second of the afternoon. With Johnson missing his first conversion of the match the lead stood at 24-8 with 25 minutes remaining.
With only four minutes remaining New Zealand went about improving their points differential. Manu Vatuvei intercepted a lofted ball from Sam Williams, Vatuvei then broke a couple of tired tackles from Canberra to run in under the posts.
Unfortunately for Canberra that was where the scoring ended as the Warriors came out 30-8 victors.
With the loss the Raiders were unable to make their way back into the top eight and go into the bye round with two straight losses under their belt.
New Zealand proved too good with their ball control and ability to pile on attacking pressure for much of the game. Whilst the Raiders worked hard bringing the ball out of their own end, it was not enough as the Warriors simply starved the number one attacking side from field position.
The bye period will have come at just the right time for Canberra as the side will have two weeks in order to reassess the rest of the season and to see if they can work back into the top eight.