It was a miserable Friday night in Auckland, both weather-wise and football-wise. With their season on the line and everything to play for, the Warriors wilted in a demoralising display.
- 10,395 – The Warriors’ lowest home crowd of the season turned out to watch the disheartening display against the Raiders.
Having previously been unbeaten on Friday nights in 2019 and coming off the back of a confidence-building month long road trip there was expectation in the air. Had this Warriors side turned a corner and could the unlikely possibility of finals football start to become a reality?
- 4 – Prior to this game the Warriors had won all four of their Friday night games in 2019.
But the classy Raiders side outpointed them across the park, exposing some glaring Warriors inefficacies on their way to a 46-12 victory. Their biggest win of the season and a win that also moved them into a deserved second place on the NRL ladder.
- 46 – The Raiders equalled their second-highest score ever against the Warriors. They also scored 46 in 1999, winning 46-22 in Canberra.
- 34 – The 34-point victory margin is the Raiders’ second-highest over the Warriors in the history of this fixture.
- 12 – In the top four biggest losses to the Raiders, curiously the Warriors have scored 12 points on each occasion.
It was all the Raiders from the outset. Their prolific captain Jarrod Croker (who went into this game with 17 tries from 17 games against the Warriors) denied twice by the Bunker inside the opening seven minutes.
But they didn’t have to wait long for confirmation of their first as influential hooker Josh Hodgson schemed out of dummy-half to put former Kiwi Test player Iosia Soliola into a gap. The front-rower pinned the ears back like the centre he used to be to score adjacent to the uprights.
- 1 – Iosia Soliola scored his first try against the Warriors since April 2009. Back then he was a centre playing for the Roosters.
It was then Soliola’s fellow prop Josh Papalii’s turn to get in on the act as he danced past Jazz Tevaga and namesake Isaiah Papali’i to score.
- 2 – Papalii scored has now scored in consecutive games against the Warriors at Mt Smart, having also scored in the 20-16 loss in Auckland last year.
- 5 – This was the fifth occasion that the Warriors have conceded two tries to start a game in 2019. They have gone on to win three of those games.
Warriors playmaker Kodi Nikorima limped off with a suspected knee injury which brought on the exciting Chanel Harris-Tavita and some hope that he could spark them into life. The Warriors looked a shadow of the team they had been in previous weeks. With a dearth of possession they just couldn’t gain any ascendancy as the Raiders countered time and time again. Michael Oldfield was the the next try-scorer courtesy of an Aidan Sezer grubber kick.
- 61 – Michael Oldfield has career tryscoring strike-rate of 0.61 per game. He has scored 29 tries from 47 NRL games. Not bad when you factor in that he has played for five clubs in that time. He has also scored a handy 30 tries from 44 games for French Super League side Catalans Dragons.
Another Kiwi popped up on the Raiders’ scoresheet next as former New Zealand Rugby Sevens representative Bailey Simonsson slid down the sideline via another Hodgson burst. The Raiders again showed up the vulnerable Warriors right-side defence and the rout was on.
- 6 – The son of former All Black Paul Simonsson, Bailey has made a great start to his NRL career, scoring his sixth try in his 13th career appearance.
Three minutes before halftime and the Warriors were willing the clock to wind down quickly so they could head into the sheds to regroup. But Hodgson had other ideas as he again strolled out from the ruck with all the time in the world and shifted it to the Raiders’ right-side attack. The ball passed through six sets of hands before – you guessed it – yet another Kiwi, backrower Joseph Tapine, finished off the entertaining (pre-2019) Warriors-esque try.
- 1 – Tapine picked up his first try at Mt Smart Stadium in his second appearance in Auckland.
Halftime ensued and it was the Raiders leading by six tries to nil after a clinical first 40 minutes. Stephen Kearney looked like a man possessed in his halftime speech, channelling what 99.9 percent of Warriors fans were probably thinking.
- 30 – This was the highest first-half score the Warriors have conceded at Mt Smart Stadium since the Rabbitohs scored 31 points in Round 23, 2016.
- 0 – This is the second occasion they have failed to score a point in the first half in 2019.
- 3 – This is the third occasion this season they have failed to score a try in the first half this year.
Whilst a comeback was always going to be a huge mountain to climb the Warriors must have taken in some of Kearney’s tirade as they managed to keep the Raiders at bay for the opening 10 minutes of the second half. And much to the crowd’s surprise they even managed to pick up a try through Harris-Tavita backing up on an offload from Blake Ayshford to score.
- 1 – Chanel Harris-Tavita scored the first try of his Warriors career.
But the celebration was short-lived as just three minutes later Simonsson made a mockery of some abysmal Warriors defence and crashed and bashed his way through five players to score.
- 2 – Simonsson scored the first double of his short career.
More misery was to follow as the outstanding Hodgson again made his own luck, virtually walking through the Warriors’ markers to crash over next to the posts.
- 100 – Josh Hodgson celebrated his 100th NRL game for the Raiders in style with a virtuoso performance and his first try of the season.
It was too little, too late as Blake Green chanced his arm and took on the line before popping a one-handed pass to the enterprising Harris-Tavita to pick up his double.
- 4 – Harris-Tavita became the fourth Warriors player to score a double this season after Maumalo (4 times), Kata and Hiku.
- 2016 – Harris-Tavita is the first Warriors player to score a double against the Raiders since Thomas Leuluai in 2016.
And to sum the night up for the Warriors, as the fans were streaming out the gate, NSW rep Jack Wighton danced past three players on the final play of the game to ice the result for the Raiders.
- 6 – The Warriors have now equalled an unwanted 20-year-old club record for the most consecutive defeats at home. They also lost six straight from Round 24, 1998 through to Round 9, 1999.
Albeit miniscule, mathematically this still doesn’t rule the Warriors out of contention. But on the basis of what they served up on Friday night they don’t deserve to be playing finals football – nor are they capable of upsetting any of their remaining five opponents, all of whom sit inside the Top 8. The Raiders had them covered in every department; it was men versus boys.
- 200 – It goes without saying that Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ran for over 200 metres again, for the mind-boggling seventh straight week and 10th time this season.
- 200 – And not to be outdone, the ever-reliable Ken Maumalo clocked over 200 run metres for the sixth consecutive game and also 10th for the season.
- 96% – Yet another comprehensive defensive effort from the industrious Leeson Ah Mau. He made 32 tackles without a miss, to take him to 10 games this season with a perfect tackling record. He has missed only 10 of his 548 tackles this season, a 96 percent tackling record.
- 1 – Only one Warriors forward ran for over 100 metres, Leeson Ah Mau. In comparison – eight Raiders forward ran into triple-figures. Josh Papalii, John Bateman, Joseph Tapine and Corey Horsburgh all ran for more than 140 metres.
- 58 – Defensively the Warriors were woeful, missing 58 tackles. The chief culprits were debutant Josh Curran (eight missed tackles), Blake Green and Jazz Tevaga (six each).
- 68 – To his credit, though, Tevaga stuck at it despite his misses. The utility reeled off another herculean effort in defence with 68 tackles. He has now topped 50 tackles in four of his last six games.
It will be interesting to see which way Kearney goes this week: does he concede the season is over and look towards 2020 and blood some young talent, or persevere with the old faithful who overall this season have been anything but. Whichever way he goes it is going to be a tough few weeks for even the most ardent of fans.
- 8 – All of the Warriors’ remaining opposition are currently in the top 8. The Sea Eagles (5th), Roosters (4th), Sharks (7th), Rabbitohs (3rd) and the Raiders (2nd).