Ahead of Saturday afternoon’s showdown in Canberra, Flashback Friday relives the most memorable Warriors-Raiders clash in the clubs’ 23-season rivalry.
A bumper crowd of 31,616 (boosted by a 10,000-ticket giveaway promotion by Warriors boss Eric Watson) descended on the Sydney Football Stadium for a semi-final featuring two out-of-town teams, and the throng was treated to a gripping spectacle.
Canberra – first-week losers to Melbourne at home – raced to a 10-0 lead, but the Warriors, who had shocked the third-placed Bulldogs with a 48-22 blitz seven days prior, drew level by halftime through tries to Logan Swann and Clinton Toopi.
A trademark aerial try to winger Henry Fa’afili gave the Warriors their first lead after the break, before Raiders prop Luke Davico charged over to set up a 16-all impasse with 23 minutes remaining.
The nerve-jangling final quarter reached its pivotal moment in the 75th minute, when Canberra centre Jason Bulgarelli fumbled a Mark McLinden grubber which had sit up perfectly for him with the try-line beckoning.
The Warriors worked the ball downfield from the changeover and mercurial halfback Stacey Jones calmly potted the match-winning one-pointer with three minutes remaining, leaving a shattered Bulgarelli and the Raiders to lament a gilt-edged opportunity that had fallen by the wayside.
The Warriors were eliminated by eventual premiers Penrith the following weekend, while Canberra had to wait another 13 years for a preliminary final appearance.