Mannering injured in 300th as Warriors beat Raiders
Canberra have been pesky top-eight giant-killers for the past fortnight but the Warriors weren't about to let the visitors be the ultimate killjoys at Simon Mannering's farewell bash.
The Warriors somehow held on amid a late Raiders onslaught for a gritty 20-16 victory at Mt Smart Stadium on Friday night to mark Mannering's 300th first grade game in style.
However, the 14-season veteran took a back seat in the second half leaving the field with an injured sternum and cheering on his teammates from the bench.
The Auckland club were far from perfect but won't care as they kept their slim home finals hopes alive with the error-ridden by still entertaining three tries to two win.
The Warriors now await the results of other round 25 games this weekend in the Telstra Premiership's regular season finale to determine their playoff fate.
Losses for the Panthers, Dragons and Broncos would be the ultimate for the Stephen Kearney's men, ensuring the Warriors fifth spot and a home qualifying final. If two of those lose, the Warriors will also lock in a home final.
Match: Warriors v Raiders
Round 25 -
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Whatever transpires, the Warriors take genuine momentum into September with wins over St George Illawarra, Newcastle, Penrith and Canberra only interrupted by a one-point slip-up against the Bulldogs.
They'll also have refreshed five-eight Blake Green (calf) back from his precautionary night off against the Raiders and will take an 8-4 away record with them if they are forced to travel.
In other words, the Warriors are ready for their first finals foray in seven seasons.
Tohu Harris and Adam Blair again added subtlety to the brute force of Bunty Afoa and Agnatius Paasi on Friday, Harris' deftness on the right edge in tandem with Johnson and standout centre Peta Hiku.
Throw in Issac Luke's darting runs from dummy-half – when he wasn't being hit hard by Joey Leilua or Brad Abbey – the jinking injection of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, and Johnson, and the Warriors spine will give their upcoming opponents sleepless nights.
Canberra contributed much to this contest and sign off their season leaving their fans wondering where this intent was earlier in the campaign.
They had two late tries to halves Blake Austin and Sam Williams over-ruled but bow out of 2018 with heads held high.
But this was the party for the man they call 'Dewy', a one-club legend who may not return to play at Mt Smart but got the farewell he deserved all the same.
Mannering, never one for the spotlight, was front and centre in one as the floodlights were dimmed and he was ushered onto Mt Smart Stadium to ACDC's "Back in Black" through a guard of honour formed by his teammates.
The big build-up gave way to a quiet start, the Warriors waiting 20 minutes to really get the back-rowers' party started as Canberra proved pushy visitors, dominating the ruck with direct running and piggy-backing off halfback Sam Williams' strong kicking game.
The Warriors' early retorts were repeatedly quelled by the Raiders' rush defence and it came as no surprise when lock Josh Papalii spun around in the tackles of Johnson and Agnatius Paasi off the back of Williams' 40-20 kick to score.
Down 6-0, the Warriors responded when centre Solomone Kata high stepped through Jordan Rapana's tackle and slid over before a no-look flick pass from Hiku sent David Fusitu's over in the corner.
The winger's 22nd try of the year made Valentine Holmes job of overhauling Fusitu'a in the Telstra Premiership's try-scoring stakes that much harder, and gave the Warriors an 8-6 lead after 25 minutes.
But Canberra regained the upper hand in the dying minutes of the first half, Williams locking up the scoreboard at 8-8 with an easy penalty goal before centre Leilua's massive hit on Warriors five-eighth Mason Lino put a painful Raiders exclamation mark on the half.
Lino somehow returned to play a hand in what proved a fast and defining second half start as Hiku scored and Johnson converted to make it 14-8.
Three Johnson penalty goals then sealed the deal despite a fortuitous Elliott Whitehead try making the final minutes nervous ones for Mannering and his men.
News & Notes: Warriors hooker Issac Luke went off for an HIA in the second half but returned to the field; fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had his left ankle heavily strapped late in the game but finished the match... Crowd: 24,595