Second half tries to Joey Leilua and Josh Hodgson gave the Raiders a 20-8 win over the Vodafone Warriors in tonight's seventh-round NRL clash in Canberra.
Lethal centre Leilua's second try in the 59th minute catapulted his side into the lead for the first time in the match before hooker Josh Hodgson added to the Vodafone Warriors' disappointment in the 66th minute.
The sides had split a converted try each in the first half but Johnson's 24th penalty had them holding a narrow edge after a first 40 minutes in which they were denied would-be tries to captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Solomone Kata.
Throughout the first 40 minutes the Vodafone Warriors were on their game, the forwards again stepping up in a spell in which they gained 1000 metres and maintained an impressive completion rate.
A rare first half error had the Vodafone Warriors under the pump in the opening moments but they averted the threat with a great defensive set.
After that they enjoyed a good phase in possession and went about completing their sets effectively.
The composed approach brought reward in the sixth minute when Ryan Hoffman hunted down a Kieran Foran bomb, went up in the contest with Canberra fullback Jack Wighton and brought it down for a try. It was called a try on the ground but referred to the bunker for checking for a possible knock-on before being verified. Johnson had no issues with the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
The Vodafone Warriors had another taste on attack but had their momentum checked when second rower Bodene Thompson took a knock and had to leave the field under the concussion protocol in the 10th minute (although he would return).
Canberra was always likely to threaten at some stage through Leilua and Jordan Rapana on its right edge. The dangerous pair has been a handful all season and it was inevitable one of the two would have a say; it was Leilua, powering over in the 20th minute for a try Jarrod Croker converted.
Soon after a penalty in front of the posts gave Johnson the opportunity to put his side two points to the good, which was what the score-line somehow remained for the rest of the half. Not without some defensive steel and good fortune on the home side's part.
Tuivasa-Sheck scorched up the middle field on an angled run for the line, seemingly certain to score but Croker sensationally denied him with a wonderful defensive effort on the line.
Soon after Ken Maumalo leapt for a Johnson bomb, sent it back infield to Solomone Kata and he went over. It was called no try on the field and the bunker agreed.
Two tries missed meant the Vodafone Warriors were only 8-6 up at the break.
The failure to convert the opportunities worked against them after the break. Ball control fell away gifting the Raiders too much possession.
Canberra wasn't about to pass up the invitations either with Leilua surging over wide out and then Hodgson catching the Vodafone Warriors out when he sneaked over from dummy half in the 66th minute.
Croker's conversion of Hodson's try took the lead out to 18-8 before he added a penalty for a 12-point edge.
In the equivalent contest last year the Vodafone Warriors were 4-22 entering the final stages on the match but there would be no dramatic comeback this time.
In their previous two outings against Gold Coast and Parramatta, the Vodafone Warriors had cut errors and missed tackles to a minimum while sustaining outstanding completions rates of 80 per cent plus. It wasn't the case tonight, especially in a disappointing second half.
The Vodafone Warriors return home on Sunday facing a long lead-in to their traditional Anzac Day match against Melbourne at AMII Park.
GIO Stadium, Canberra
Canberra Raiders 20 (Joey Leilua 2, Josh Hodgson tries; Jarrod Croker 2 conversions, 2 penalties).
Vodafone Warriors 8 (Ryan Hoffman try; Shaun Johnson conversion, penalty).
Halftime: 8-6 Vodafone Warriors.
Referees: Adam Gee and Gavin Reynolds.
Vodafone Warriors | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c); David Fusitu'a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo; Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson; James Gavet, Issac Luke, Jacob Lillyman; Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman; Simon Mannering. Interchange: Nathaniel Roache, Charlie Gubb, Ligi Sao, Sam Lisone.