The Canberra Raiders have fought their way into eighth place on the NYC ladder with a gruelling 24-14 win over the New Zealand Warriors at GIO Stadium.
Seemingly out of finals contention as they rode a six-game losing streak mid-season, a sixth win in seven games has Canberra sitting inside the top eight for at least the next 24 hours.
Rain hammered the nation’s capital in the days leading up to the match, but it seemed as though the rugby league gods were smiling on the home side in the first half. Twice as the Raiders worked their way into opposition territory, the clouds parted, and GIO Stadium was bathed in sunlight. Twice Nick Cotric scored a four-pointer.
Playing at right centre, Cotric starred with two tries, and right-side winger Jack Hickson bagged two of his own, suggesting there might be something special about right-edges in Canberra after the success of the Leipana pairing at NRL level.
It was the Warriors that would open the scoring in the seventh minute as front-rower Kenese Kenese barged over from close range. Kane Telea added the extras from in front to give his side a 6-0 lead.
Neither side fired a shot for the best part of the next twenty minutes, before a trademark hit from Daniel Dole that sent Marata Niukore hurtling back into the turf got the hosts on the front foot.
Cotric reaped the rewards just minutes later as he stepped inside his opposite number to score virtually untouched. Zac Woolford’s conversion faded across the uprights, and the hosts trailed 6-4 after 29 minutes.
New Zealand struck back five minutes later as some swift ball movement from the visitors saw the Raiders’ right edge outnumbered. Warriors centre Junior Pauga found himself in open space to score his side’s second four-pointer. Telea failed to add the extras, and the hosts found themselves six points down.
Not to be outdone, a near-identical effort to that of Pauga saw Cotric bag his second try, and bring the Raiders to within two points in the dying stages of the half. Woolford’s conversion attempt was waved away, and the Raiders went into halftime trailing 10-8.
The hosts took less than fifty seconds to snatch the lead in the second half, as Cotric sprinted down the right-hand touchline before linking up with try-scorer Hickson on his inside. Woolford’s tough day with the boot continued, and the margin remained at two.
It took just four more minutes for the hosts to cross again, with the ball swinging from left to right and back again before Jack Murchie straightened up and charged over the line. Cotric had the shot at goal, but he too failed to convert in the windy conditions.
The goal-kicking curse plagued the visitors as well, with Telea unable to convert Niukore’s try in the 56th minute, as the Warriors trailed 16-14.
Cotric’s second conversion attempt didn’t fare any better, after a centimetre perfect grubber from Logan Spaander bounced into the waiting arms of Hickson to take a 20-14 lead with fifteen minutes remaining.
Woolford scored a try of his own to put the result beyond doubt inside the final ten minutes as the hosts took a ten-point lead, but again couldn’t convert.
The Raiders now look forward to next Sunday’s meeting with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.