Match Report: Raiders grit out win over Warriors
A second-half surge has seen the Canberra Raiders overpower the New Zealand Warriors 20-8 at GIO Stadium on Saturday evening to record their third win on the trot.
It meant the Raiders once again marked a player’s milestone in winning fashion, the Green Machine’s 12-point win celebrating fullback Jack Wighton’s 100th NRL appearance in front of a 13,966-strong crowd.
A Jarrod Croker penalty goal levelled things up at eight-all 11 minutes in to the second stanza, before the Raiders revealed their fangs.
A Blake Austin bomb sent swirling into the heavens landed in the feeble hands of winger Ken Maumalo deep in the Warriors’ defence, the 22-year-old spilling his lollies to open the door for a Joey Leilua rampage.
The NSW hopeful took the opportunity with both hands, barging through a frail left-edge defence in the 59th minute to bag his second four-pointer as the Raiders clinched the lead for the first time. The hosts led 12-8 after Croker failed to add the extras.
Josh Hodgson then gave the men in green some breathing space when he burrowed over from dummy-half in the 66th minute, before a successful conversion from the skipper gave the Raiders an 18-8 lead.
When Croker banged over another penalty goal with five minutes on the clock, the game was put beyond doubt.
Leilua was arguably the Raiders’ best on the park, garnering 135 metres to complement his two-try effort, while prop Junior Paulo was monumental in churning out a game-high 185 metres.
The visitors drew first blood off the back of a Kieran Foran bomb, captain Ryan Hoffman beating Wighton in the air to crash over in the sixth minute for the opening try of the game. Halfback Shaun Johnson added the extras to hand the Warriors an early 6-0 lead.
The Warriors then piled on the pressure, earning a penalty in the ensuing set before marching up-field and producing two goal-line drop-outs in a matter of moments.
But against a glut of possession and penalties to the Kiwi franchise, the Raiders bit back in the 20th minute when Leilua beat three defenders to slice through for a four-pointer on the right edge. Croker put last week’s kicking woes behind him, steering the Steeden between the sticks to lock things up at six-all in the 24th minute.
The seesawing encounter then continued, Austin coughing the ball up off the kick-off before the Warriors were handed a penalty and duly opted for the two points from straight in front to make things 8-6.
Warriors flyer Roger Tuivasa-Sheck twinkle-toed through the Raiders’ defence in the shadows of half-time with a mountain of space ahead, but Croker had other ideas.
The Raiders’ skipper managed to contort himself into a topsy-turvy position, holding up the ball millimetres from the turf before the Bunker confirmed the referee’s no-try decision.
Croker then led the Raiders into the sheds trailing 8-6 after a 40-minute tug-of-war exchange streaked with a mountain of metres and a raft of errors, before the men in green ran away with the game in the second half.
The Raiders are now set to play host to the Manly Sea Eagles next Friday night at GIO Stadium as they chase their fourth win on the trot.
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