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Stayin' alive: Raiders fight back to remain in finals race

Ricky Stuart thought Canberra were too preoccupied with the result as they fell behind 16-0 to the Warriors before an epic comeback put them in a strong position to finish eighth.

Keeping the New Zealand club scoreless for the final 55 minutes, the Raiders clinched a thrilling 28-16 victory at Mackay's BB Print Stadium with Jordan Rapana and Hudson Young both scoring at the death.

The Warriors struggled for direction when veteran halfback Chad Townsend, whose kicking game was on song, succumbed to a season-ending shoulder injury in the 48th minute.

Warriors fullback Reece Walsh skewed an under-pressure field goal attempt before Canberra prioritised four points over one.

Rapana, who had missed a long-range penalty goal in the 73rd minute, was the man to seal the match as he crossed on the left wing.

"We played with too much of an eye on the scoreboard and what the result was about, so that's all we spoke about at half-time," Stuart said.

"I said I don’t care what happens in regards to the overall result … I just want to win the second half.

"I said we played too tight, we were making errors and we just kept feeding possession and field position to the Warriors and just kept making a real hurdle for ourselves."

The result - which marked Stuart's 100th win as Raiders coach - has lifted the Green Machine into eighth place leading into their final-round clash with the injury-hit Roosters on Thursday night.

Rapana seals it with a cracker of a try

However, the ninth-placed Sharks (20 points) face the Broncos on Saturday night and have a superior differential while the Titans (20 points) could strike if the two above them stumble next weekend.

Despite conceding a try in the first set, with Warriors hooker Wayde Egan splitting markers Josh Hodgson and Ryan Sutton before linking with Sean O'Sullivan, Stuart was pleased with the team's defence.

"The first try was really very uncommon in regards to the mix-up we had at marker and then two kicks [led to] two tries," he said.

"They were two catches we should have caught, but Nathan [Brown] has got a very good football team there and to defend them the way we did, I thought we did well."

Rapana recorded 286 metres, two line-breaks and 12 tackle-breaks as well as kicking four goals in a herculean performance.

The off-contract 32-year-old started at fullback but shifted to the wing when Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was introduced at the 26-minute mark following a groin injury to Bailey Simonsson.

Pure power from Nicoll-Klokstad

"[Rapana] tells me every week what he can do. And he's actually doing it, so I can't criticise him for it," Stuart quipped.

"He’ll love hearing this - I don't know if he looks at these press conferences – I just said to Matty Ford, our team manager, on the bench tonight: 'He amazes me, Rapa. He breaks a lot of tackles, he makes a lot of metres, but it’s all through effort and energy'."

Stuart also praised the influence of five-eighth Jack Wighton, who ignited the left-edge attack that produced Canberra's three tries.

After claiming the opening try, O'Sullivan set up the next with a neat kick that was spilled by Simonsson, allowing Rocco Berry to swoop.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak then extended the lead as a Townsend bomb was dropped by Raiders centre Sebastian Kris.

We have a try inside a minute!

Crucially, Nicoll-Klokstad - in his second match but from neck surgery - showed no hesitation to put his body on the line just before half-time as he bumped off O'Sullivan and carried Peta Hiku over the stripe.

It was a much-needed jumpstart and Canberra maintained the intensity to begin the second term with Kris adding his name to the scoresheet after a slick shift in the 44th minute.

The grind resumed but the Raiders eventually broke through to level the game after 65 minutes when Wighton sent Rapana down the touchline and the flanker linked with Kris on his inside.

Press Conference: Warriors v Raiders - Round 24, 2021

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