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[Match report] Raiders too potent

Richard Becht | Image: www.photosport.nz

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Canberra was too potent for an inexperienced Vodafone Warriors side as it ran out to a 36-16 win in tonight's 23rd-round NRL match at Mount Smart Stadium.

The victory kept the Raiders' slim top eight hopes alive while consigning a game but injury-ravaged Vodafone Warriors side to a sixth straight loss.

In the end Canberra had too much quality and experience across the park.

Yet it was the home side which should have been on the scoreboard first, only for centre Solomone Kata to lose control as he was swooping to ground the ball chasing down a well-judged grubber.

No try for the Vodafone Warriors and Canberra struck from the restart, going long range with Jarrod Croker breaking into the clear before connecting with wing Nick Cotric for a try against the run of play. Croker, reliable as ever with boot, made it 6-0 after nine minutes

There was an injury concern for the Vodafone Warriors with Kata clutching his shoulder after his disallowed try. He stayed on for a few minutes but was forced to go off the field for treatment.

Issac Luke came on after 14 minutes and, for the second consecutive week, the Nathaniel Roache found himself shifted out to the wing. It was so unfortunate on a day when he had his mind set on starting at hooker.  

There had been some zest about the Vodafone Warriors' play with and without the ball but they were soon exposed on their rearranged right edge after David Fusitu'a moved to left centre to replace Kata.

Cotric was put in the clear, went down the touchline and drew the defence for Croker to score and then convert for a 12-0 lead after 17 minutes.

The Vodafone Warriors might have been disappointed with their slow start but they were anything but deterred by it, striking back in the 25th minute.

A Mason Lino crossfield kick was reclaimed, the ball kept alive with Ben Matulino handling twice and shifting to Ryan Hoffman on his left who sent Fusitu'a across for his 10th try of the season and the 30th of his career. Lino's conversion was brilliant to bring the score back to 6-12.

Facing Canberra's team of monsters, the Vodafone Warriors needed to keep their error count to a bare minimum, especially in their own half.

Unfortunately they coughed up possession 40 metres out from their line soon after Croker's try. The Raiders made them pay the full price, running a play to the left for Blake Austin to step through. Croker's conversion had the visitors out to an 18-6 lead after 34 minutes, an advantage they took to the sheds at the break.

The Vodafone Warriors opened the second 40 minutes with plenty of endeavour and smart plays in the wet conditions, Lino forcing three goal-line dropouts with deft kicks.

In the 49th minute prop Jacob Lillyman went to the bench after an unbroken stint in which he earned 132 metres from 12 carries. At the same time, Kata returned to the field enabling Roache to go back to hooker.

The Vodafone Warriors stayed in the wrestle, dominating field position and maintaining an excellent completion rate of 96 per cent to that point (24 from 25). 

The points weren't coming, though.

Canberra earned a penalty coming out of defence. Alarms bells for the Vodafone Warriors at their end but they answered it.

A season beset by ill fortune on the injury front seemed to have claimed another victim when Ata Hingano was down for some time with a leg injury.

He was able to carry on, though, and moments later popped up in a superb left edge play, linking with Simon Mannering who had Roger Tuivasa-Sheck surging onto his pass for a fabulous try. Lino couldn't convert leaving the Raiders 18-10 ahead after 57 minutes. It was just reward after creating and sustaining pressure.

No sooner back in the scoring groove, though, and the Vodafone Warriors were on the receiving end again.

On a night when their error count had been commendably low, they critically spilled the ball at their end of the field. It was an opportunity the ruthless Raiders benefited from with giant centre Joey Leilua rumbling over. Croker's conversion opened the margin to 24-10. 

Another error had points on the end of it, too, as Canberra went right for wing Jordan Rapana to score and Croker to convert yet again.

Indeed, there was a spate of errors at odds with the Vodafone Warriors' completion rate of 31 from 37 (87 per cent). They came in a cluster between the 60th and 73rd minutes with the third in succession ending with Canberra's sixth try and Cotric's second of the night.

It had the Raiders out to a 36-10 lead but the Vodafone Warriors finished with a flourish, some slick ball work finishing with Lino dropping off on the inside for Isaiah Papali'i to score his first NRL try. 

 

MATCH DETAILS

Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland

Vodafone Warriors 16 (David Fusitu'a, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Isaiah Papali'i tries; Mason Lino 2 conversions).

Canberra Raiders 36 (Nick Cotric 2, Jarrod Croker, Blake Austin, Joey Leilua, Jordan Rapana tries; Jarrod Croker 6 conversions).

Halftime: 18-6 Raiders.

Referees: Adam Gee and Gavin Reynolds.

Crowd: 10,182.

Vodafone Warriors | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c); David Fusitu'a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo; Mafoa'aeata Hingano, Mason Lino; Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Sam Lisone; Bunty Afoa, Ryan Hoffman; Simon Mannering. Interchange: Ben Matulino, Issac Luke, Isaiah Papali'i, Chris Satae.