A power surge of second-half tries has kept the Canberra Raiders’ season alive in a 36-16 victory over the New Zealand Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Fleet-footed Warriors fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck made it an eight-point ball game in the 57th minute after the Raiders had led 18-6 at the break, before the Green Machine rollicked to a trio of consecutive tries to put the game to bed.
First came a try on the cusp of the hour mark when centre Joey Leilua collected a gorgeous Elliott Whitehead cut-out from close range.
Captain Jarrod Croker made no mistake from the tee to hand the Green Machine a 24-10 cushion, before Austin came to the party with a cut-out of his own.
The 26-year-old delivered a pin-point gem into the mitts of an unmarked Jordan Rapana who would dot down to the cheers of family in his native land.
The Kiwi international’s 17th try of the season also secured Rapana’s maiden four-pointer against the Warriors.
Croker again troubled the scorers to make things 30-10, before the Raiders continued to beef up their percentage when Nick Cotric burst through the home side’s defence off the back of a scrum for his second try of the day and 15th for the year.
New Zealand forward Isaiah Papalii crossed for a late converted try but it would be a matter of too little too late for Stephen Kearney’s men who would plummet to their sixth loss on the trot.
On the other side of the ledger, Canberra now needs to pick the lock on the running and gunning Panthers at GIO Stadium next Sunday to ensure its finals aspirations continue to glimmer.
The Warriors went tantalisingly close to nabbing first points at Mt Smart when Austin laid a desperate tackle on New Zealand centre Blake Ayshford.
A fumble in their own 20m then had the Raiders up to the necks in the ensuing set but the Green Machine would turn the tables, Jack Wighton batting a rapid-fire ball to Croker from 60 metres out.
The skipper relished the sight of open pastures ahead before linking with Cotric on the left edge who would race away for his first of two tries seven minutes in.
Croker added the extras to hand the Raiders a 6-0 buffer before the Green Machine’s formidable left-edge duo again reared its head in the 17th minute.
This time it was Cotric who would race down the left touchline before Croker latched on to an inside ball before again converting his own four-pointer to extend Canberra’s lead to 12-0.
The men in green continued to pile on the pressure when giant prop Junior Paulo turned Tuivasa-Sheck into a thumbtack mid-step moments later.
But the flamboyance of the Warriors would come to the fore, the Kiwi franchise pushing the boundaries to keep the ball alive before winger David Fusitua sliced through on the left edge 24 minutes in.
A Mason Lino conversion made things 12-6 before a converted Austin try cornered the Warriors back into square one.
The five-eighth threw a beguiling dummy in a right-to-left probe on the hosts’ line to cross for Canberra’s third try of the day before the men in green took an 18-6 lead into the break.
Lino proved pinpoint off the toe in forcing back-to-back goal-line drop-outs early in the second stanza, before the Green Machine wrestled back momentum through a Croker pick-up at full pelt and surging line break.
Tuivasa-Sheck iced a sweeping passage of passes on the left edge in the 57th minute to peg things back to 18-10, but Canberra would put on the afterburners to glove its third win on the trot.