The Canberra Raiders started strong, but failed to finish on top when they went down to the New Zealand Warriors 21-20 in golden point at Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe on Saturday afternoon.

Canberra went into the game without Elliott Whitehead who was ruled out with a facial injury sustained in last week’s defeat to Penrith. There was a chance he would be named for this game, however the decision was made to wait another week to allow for more healing.

The Warriors were also without some regular faces, with Josh Curran (knee), Chanel Harris-Tavita (ruptured testicle), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (concussion/HIA protocol) and Aaron Pene (suspension) all missing from the line up. While Curran and Harris-Tavita are expected to be missing for up to a month, DWZ and Pene will be available for selection for round 9. I was fortunate enough to speak to DWZ prior to kick-off, he said he was feeling good and the only reason he wasn’t playing was due to the short turn around.

In what was Ricky Stuart’s 450th game as an NRL coach, Canberra started strong and scored in the 6th minute courtesy of a pass from Jack Wighton to centre Matthew Timoko, who ran through Jesse Arthars. The first 15 minutes saw many penalties, particularly from Matt Lodge, who was penalised twice in a minute. Lodge put a late hit on Jordan Rapana and Canberra decided to take the 2. Brad Schneider added the extras and the Raiders were starting to build a comfortable lead.

After 20 minutes, the Warriors were showing signs of fatigue. Whether that was due to the heat of the day, the changes to their regular line-up, or if their minds were still on their 70-10 defeat by Melbourne at the start of the week, they were lacking intensity and the Raiders took advantage, keeping the pressure on them set after set.

Adam Elliott was great for the Raiders, putting pressure on the Warriors defence and coming close to scoring twice in 10 minutes had he been able to hold onto the ball.

Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson put up a high kick that paid off when Rapana confidently caught it, but then passed across field to Nick Cotric who fumbled under the pressure of a charging Daejarn Asi, who then gained possession and 3 passes later, Adam Pompey was over and the Warriors were on the board after 24 minutes. Reece Walsh added the extras and it was a 2 point ball game.

The Raiders hit back with Hudson Young scoring in the 27th minute, after a bit of pass-the-footy through 5 players while rushing at the line. The Warriors weren’t in position to defend and Young slipped in through a gap. Schneider added the extras again and they were back to an 8 point lead with 11 to go before halftime.

It was a game of “they score, we score”, as the Warriors went in again 3 minutes later. Asi put a kick chase on and Rapana was almost certain to scoop it up, but he slipped over, allowing Viliami Vailea to gather and score his first NRL career try, and Walsh again added the extras.

The Raiders weren’t done yet, with Wighton beating 3 defenders to score, with Schneider converting to take an 8 point lead into the halftime break.

The second half was full of fumbles and penalties, from knock-ons to forward passes, neither team could get over the line. The completion rates for the first 15 minutes weren’t pretty either, the Warriors were 4/9 (44%) and the Raiders were 4/7 (57%).

With 17 minutes to go, Asi was amongst the action again when he sent Euan Aitken over with a superb pass. Asi drew the defenders in before passing to Aitken & Reece Walsh followed with yet another conversion to close in on the Raiders.

The Warriors thought they’d gone over again through Shaun Johnson, but the ref and bunker questioned if there was an obstruction. The replay showed that Ben Murdoch-Masila obstructed the line and made contact with Tom Starling, in turn giving Johnson space to come back in and over the line. The decision was no try and the Raiders were given a penalty to help them get out of their own end, but that wasn’t to be when Jack Murchie forced Hudson Young to lose the ball.

The turning point of the game was in the 78th minute when Matt Lodge was caught high by Corey Horsburgh. Lodge was 15 metres out from the line when Horsburgh came in and made contact across his face, although the green machine fans didn’t believe there was anything in it as their made their boos heard. The bunker however saw it differently, putting Horsburgh on report for a high tackle and the Warriors were awarded a penalty right in front. Walsh didn’t miss, and he took the team into golden point for the second time this season.

It was in the 2nd minute of golden point that the Warriors took the win, with Shaun Johnson kicking a field goal for the second time in 4 weeks. The previous field goal was in the game against the North Queensland Cowboys in round 5, another come from behind victory.

Daejarn Asi didn’t look out of place, the youngster who was a Warriors supporter as a kid couldn’t get a look in at North Queensland, behind the likes of Scott Drinkwater and Tom Dearden. He signed with the Warriors earlier in the week and had roughly 3 days to get into the swing of things before coach Nathan Brown named him to play alongside Johnson. The timing couldn’t have been better, with the rest of the halves on their roster unavailable due to injury or Covid, and Ash Taylor facing an early retirement due to hip injuries that he has struggled to overcome.

Coach Brown said his side showed “a bit of fight and resilience” in the second half to get back into the game in comparison to their performance in the 2nd half against the Storm on Monday.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart was lost for words when it came to facing the media. “That whole second half was undisciplined, lacked any quality execution, just very disappointing.”

Round 9 sees the Raiders playing host to the Bulldogs at GIO Stadium on Friday night, while the Warriors will head to PointsBet Stadium on Sunday afternoon to take on the Cronulla Sharks.

NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS: 21 TRIES: A. Pompey, V. Vailea, E. Aitken GOALS: R. Walsh 3/3 PENALTY GOALS: R. Walsh 1/1 FIELD GOALS: S. Johnson 1/1

CANBERRA RAIDERS: 20 TRIES: M. Timoko, H. Young, J. Wighton GOALS: B. Schneider 3/3 PENALTY GOALS: B. Schneider 1/1

JUDICIARY: J. Wighton (CAN) Dangerous tackle on Reece Walsh – 2 games, M. Lodge (WAR) Dangerous contact on Corey Harawira-Naera – $1000 fine

CASUALTY WARD: J. Arthars (WAR) shoulder, B. Sironen (WAR) ankle

LOZ’S STAND OUT PLAYERS: D. Asi (WAR), A. Fonua-Blake (WAR), B. Afoa (WAR), A. Elliott (CAN), M. Timoko (CAN), X. Savage (CAN)

By Loz

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