A dominant first half steered the Canberra Raiders to a comfortable 38-12 victory over the New Zealand Warriors at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth tonight.
Having suffered two straight narrow losses, the Raiders skipped out to a commanding 22-0 lead at the break, laying the platform for the six tries to two victory.
A superb performance from 18-point hero Jarrod Croker helped Canberra to snap a two-game losing streak and move inside the top eight.
Centre Joseph Leilua went within a whisker of crossing in the fourth minute, only to be denied by the Bunker. It was the only real chance for either side in the early exchanges, as both teams struggled to build any momentum.
Five-eighth Blake Austin turned the Warriors defensive line inside out with a show and go to open the scoring in the 18th minute, before Jarrod Croker added the extras for a 6-0 score line.
It looked as though the hosts had struck back just three minutes later when Bodene Thompson was on the receiving end of a Shaun Johnson grubber, but a fumble from the Warriors backrower allowed Canberra to get back on the attack.
A penalty off the ensuing set handed the club’s leading point scorer a crack at two points right in front of the sticks. Croker made no mistakes, sending the Steeden straight over the black dot from 32 metres out.
Canberra’s lethal right edge made the most of another penalty, as Leilua collected his own grubber to steal a try in the 26th minute. Croker’s conversion stretched Canberra’s lead to 14-0 in front of a stunned Warriors crowd.
The Raiders repelled wave after wave of attack in their own half, before Croker left three defenders in his wake to draw level with Laurie Daley in third on the club’s all-time leading try scorers list. True to form, the skipper nailed the conversion to take a 20-point lead in the 38th minute.
Yet another penalty went in favour of the Green Machine moments later, with Croker slotting a penalty goal on halftime to take an ultimately insurmountable 22-0 lead into the break.
2014 Golden Boot winner Shaun Johnson brought the home crowd to life when he dived over early in the second stanza. Johnson converted his own try to cut the deficit to 16 after 47 minutes.
The hosts handed the Raiders a golden opportunity ten minutes later, coughing the ball up ten metres out from their own line. Josh Papalii made the Warriors pay, crashing over the line to extend the lead to 20. Croker’s conversion attempt was waved away, ending his perfect outing with the boot.
Johnson – who has scored more points against the Raiders than any other team – looked to provide some spark in attack, but his efforts went unrewarded as the visitors stuck solid in defence.
While the Warriors couldn’t find the line, Canberra had no such troubles at the other end of the paddock as Josh Hodgson darted over from dummy half to score. Croker’s conversion stretched the score to 32-6 inside the final fifteen minutes.
Edrick Lee rubbed salt into the wound when he swooped on a loose ball to run forty metres to score. Croker added the extras to take his side to a 38-6 with under ten minutes remaining.
The hosts snatched a try of their own late in the contest with Blake Ayshford snaring a four-pointer. Johnson’s boot saw the ball sail through the uprights, bringing the score to 38-12 in Canberra’s favour.
The 38-12 victory marked the first time an NRL clash had been played in New Plymouth, with the Raiders snapping a five-game losing streak against the Warriors that stretched back to 2013.