COMETH the hour, cometh the man was the order of the day for Canberra Raiders five eighth Terry Campese. Anything short of a show-stopping display would have cast major doubts over his New South Wales State of Origin hopes, after a stretch of below-par performances.
However, when it mattered most, Campese turned on his best and led Canberra to a comprehensive 26-point win over the battling Warriors.
On a day where barnstorming second-rower Tom Learoyd-Lahrs also threw his hat into the ring as a Blues bolter, the green machine returned to their razzle-dazzle best at Canberra Stadium to snap a four-match losing streak.
Campese ran the ball confidently and, with good help from halfback Marc Herbert, he was able to return his side to the brilliant brand of football that saw them make last year’s finals series.
Pacemen Jarrod Croker and David Milne benefitted on the scoreboard, both bagging doubles.
Canberra’s big men, who didn’t offer enough of a resistance against Melbourne last week, dominated the intimidating – on paper at least – Warriors’ pack. The Raiders managed 510 metres from their 66 hit-ups compared to the Warriors’ 422 metres from just 55 charges. The home side’s remarkable 24 offloads also proved the difference – with their second-phase game killing their opposition.
The Game Swung When… While the Warriors were well and truly in the match right up until halftime, it was obvious the New Zealanders hadn’t turned up to play when they turned over possession in the first set of the match.
After just three minutes of play a Learoyd-Lahrs offload sent Milne over for his first try and soon after Croker nabbed his opening four-pointer.
The teams went to the sheds with the Raiders leading by four and the game swung when Milne sliced through some lead-footed defence just two minutes into the second half. The try came off a loose ball and the Warriors’ slow reaction time to the situation was indicative of their sluggishness for the entire afternoon.
Who Was Hot… Maroons legend Jason Smith was quoted over the weekend pushing the case of Raiders second-rower Tom Learoyd-Lahrs for Origin. Smith didn’t realise at the time that the big bopper was in fact a New South Welshman but he wasn’t wrong in his assessment that Lahrs is suited to representative footy.
Big, strong and skilful, Lahrs showed off all his skills against the Warriors, getting away a remarkable six offloads, setting up a try and having a hand in several others.
Who Was Not… You never like to point the finger at a legend of the game but Stacey Jones struggled for the Warriors. Noted for their attacking prowess, the Auckland-based unit simply aren’t producing in the point-scoring department at the moment, and Jones is struggling for options in his return year.
Jones ran the ball just twice in the match and also made two errors. Plus he missed seven tackles – including being palmed off by Croker for his second try. His kicking game was also lacking metres and he seemed to be missing the experience of Nathan Fien outside him.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… After his effort in the dying minutes, it wasn’t clear whether Campese was auditioning for a Blues Origin jersey or a spot in Pim Verbeek’s Socceroos’ World Cup squad.
Campo showed off some silky soccer skills when he managed to kick a loose pass with his boot across to Croker on the left side of the field. The ball went straight to Croker as if it were passed to him by hand, and he managed to fend off Jones to score out wide. It was a sign that perhaps the magic touch has been finally reclaimed by Canberra, who have been struggling for luck and cohesion all season.
Injuries… A few bruised egos for the Warriors. Their coach Ivan Cleary would have left the nation’s capital with a throbbing head.
Bad Boys… Jarrod Croker was charged with a dangerous throw in the 73rd minute; he’ll be free to play with an early guilty plea.
Refs Watch… The whistleblowers thankfully didn’t play a part in this match. Jarrod Maxwell seemed to bounce back fine from the scare he received last Friday night when an idiotic spectator crash-tackled him after fulltime at Campbelltown Stadium.
Both officials allowed for an open and fast game.
NRL.com Best & Fairest: 3 points – Tom Learoyd-Lahrs(Raiders): The back-rower’s strong surges and masterful offloads were the key to Canberra’s victory. His work got the home side off to a flyer and it was the best performance from a Raider this season; 2 points – Terry Campese (Raiders): Played his natural game, where he was able to run and worry about what he was doing, not anybody else. Campese set up a try and re-organised the Raiders backline back into an attacking force.
1 point – Marc Herbert (Raiders): Was sensational; his two try assists and two offloads, along with a bunch of quality touches, had the Warriors in two minds throughout.
Raiders 38 (D Milne 2, J Croker 2, T Thurling, T Waddell, T Campese tries; T Campese 5 goals) def Warriors 12 (S Price, S Mannering tries; D Kemp 2 goals) at Canberra Stadium. Crowd: 8383.