Raiders down Warriors, continue finals charge
The Canberra Raiders have kept their NRL Telstra Premiership finals hopes alive with a comfortable 36-16 victory over the Warriors in Auckland on Sunday afternoon.
The Raiders were made to work for it through the opening hour, as the Warriors stubbornly remained in the game, but were able to overpower the struggling Kiwi side in the final quarter to earn a victory which sees them remain within four points of the top eight with three games remaining.
The Warriors will look back and have no one but themselves to blame for their sixth-straight defeat, with five of Canberra's six tries coming after handling errors from the Warriors on the previous set.
The hosts should have scored on seven minutes when Ata Hingano dribbled a pinpoint kick in behind the line to beat any possible defenders, but instead Solomone Kata fumbled it cold and seconds later the visitors turned it into a four-pointer of their own, with Jarrod Croker breaking and finding Nick Cotric in support.
A short time later the pair combined again for the Raiders' second try, with Cotric turning provider to put his skipper over.
Down 12-0 and having struggled to assert themselves for the best part of 15 minutes, the Warriors got one back following some hot-potato footy which eventually saw David Fusitu'a slide over out wide.
Mason Lino converted to halve the gap.
But seven minutes from the break the home side were made to pay for a sloppy fumble from Issac Luke at dummy-half, with Blake Austin dancing through multiple attempted tackles to score from close range to make it 18-6 at the half.
After a long stoppage in play to deal with an injury to Hingano, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck caught the Raiders short out wide and squeezed over for a try.
But just as his side threatened to get back into the contest, Ken Maumalo dropped the ball on the next set while coming out of yardage, and then compounded it by missing a tackle on Joseph Leilua as he powered over off an Elliott Whitehead short ball.
Five minutes later Ricky Stuart's side sealed the result with a try to Rapana in the corner of the field, before some abysmal defence from the Warriors saw Cotric burst through directly off a scrum six minutes from time, with Croker adding his sixth conversion to record a perfect day off the boot.
One of the final acts of the day saw 18-year-old forward Isaiah Papali'i go over for his first NRL try, after a section of exciting and accurate attack which has hardly been seen by the club in the last month and a half.
Canberra Raiders 36 (Nick Cotric x2, Jarrod Croker, Blake Austin, Joseph Leilua, Jordan Rapana tries; Croker 6 goals) def. New Zealand Warriors 16 (David Fusitu'a, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Isaiah Papali'i tries; Mason Lino 2 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Half-time: 18-6. Crowd: 10,182.
NRL.com unofficial votes: 3 points: Jarrod Croker. 2 points: Elliott Whitehead. 1 point: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.