Warriors 24, Raiders 20. It may have come down to the last 12 minutes of the season, but salvation.
- 20 – The Warriors have now won 20 of their 42 games against the Raiders in the history of this fixture.
After a testing last six weeks of competition the Warriors managed to pull of an unlikely victory to put some shine on what has been an otherwise forgettable season in many ways.
- 1 – Going into this game the Warriors had won just one of their last six games.
It has been hard to find the positives at times this season, especially stats-wise – and as the old saying goes, the stats don’t lie. In a season of ups and downs it was pertinent that the Warriors went into the off-season on a high with some of the confidence that only a win can provide. It would also ease the pressure and newspaper columns somewhat on under-scrutiny players and coaching staff to a degree, and perhaps give them a better gauge on where this football side is truly at.
Despite coming up against a weakened Raiders side that had rested several key players, confidence wasn’t high as the Warriors were also down on key troops. Losing David Fusitu’a to injury just before kick off only heightened this. Let’s not mention the weather.
- 239 – Taane Milne became Warrior number #239 as he made his debut for the club. Milne previously played for the Dragons.
Going into the game it was paramount that defence was the key area the Warriors had to shape up in to have any hope. But it was a freak play from Elliott Whitehead that gifted the Raiders their first points after he batted back a Jack Wighton grubber that was going dead for all money. Young winger Sebastian Kris on hand to catch the spoils and touch down in just the eighth minute. Nonetheless, not exactly the start the Warriors needed.
- 11 – Kris’ try was the 11th time this season that the Warriors have conceded the first try of he game.
Captain Jarrod Croker missed his conversion attempt but slotted a penalty shortly after to give Canberra a 6-0 lead. The Warriors became the recipients of three penalties in a row which eventually saw Lachlan Burr slide over in the 19th minute thanks to Blake Green’s sleight-of-hand, which allowed Issac Luke to level things up.
- 1 – Burr scored his first career try for the Warriors and the second of his NRL career. His previous four-pointer came for the Titans in 2015. He also scored three tries for Leigh Centurions in the 2017 Super League.
A bit of back and forth ensued, before a nice shift through the hands to the left side by the Warriors saw Adam Pompey wrestle his way over to put the Warriors into the lead and leaving fans to ponder what exactly they were witnessing. Who were these men in black? What had they done with our Warriors ?
- 2 – Pompey picked up the second try of hiss Warriors career, as well as his second try in his last two NRL games.
Alas, parity was restored quickly as Josh Papalii threw a dummy and beat four defenders on his way to the line. This coming off the back of a Warriors mistake and capping a huge first half for the Raiders prop.
- 162 – Josh Papalii ran for 162 metres in the first half alone, including six tackles busts and 19 tackles.
Then, frustratingly, the scheming Josh Hodgson took advantage of a tired Warriors defence and slipped through a gap and put the foot down as he beat multiple defenders to score right on halftime. A real kick in the guts which swung the momentum back to the Raiders, who led 16-12 at the break.
- 2 – Hodgson has scored in both games against the Warriors in 2019. In fact, his four tries in his career against the Warriors are the most he has scored against any other NRL side since he moved from England in 2015.
After managing to hold out multiple Raiders attacks it was the one they didn’t see coming that caught them napping as the Raiders shifted the ball to the right and Michael Oldfield turned on the afterburners and scorched away to score a brilliant try in the right-hand corner, much to the chagrin of the valiant effort by Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to deny him in the corner. Oldfield sadly ending up with a dislocated shoulder to rule him out for the rest of the season.
- 30 – Oldfield scored his 30th try in his 48th NRL game. Not bad when you consider that this is across five clubs. He also scored 30 tries in 44 Super League games for the Catalans Dragons.
It was 20-12 Raiders with time starting to run out. The season starting to run out. But as adversity seemed to be at hand and the Warriors seemingly heading for yet another end of season fade away something clicked, something changed as they countered a bewildered Raiders side. Perhaps it was Taane Milne’s absolute bell-ringer on Hodgson. It had to have been. It got me going.
It had to have been, as fate led Milne to be on the end of a spilled bomb as he dotted down only for the Warriors to be over ruled by the bunker (not for the first time this season). But minutes later, spurred on by their sudden second wind it was the Warriors of old as they went coast to coast. Thirteen sets of hands later Tuivasa-Sheck motored straight ahead through the non-existent Raiders defence to bring the Warriors within two points with 10 minutes remaning.
- 7 – Tuivasa-Sheck scored his seventh try of the season, and the 21st of his Warriors career. He has now scored 49 NRL tries in his career.
With 76 minutes gone and the culmination of the season, a Blake Green show-and-go put the Warriors in the lead. Ebullient and exhausted, the relief across New Zealand was seismic.
- 2005 – This was the first time that the Warriors have won a final-round game when not advancing to the finals since 2005.
- 2009 – This was the Warriors’ first win while being mathematically out of finals contention since 2009.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was once again the standout, the heart and soul of the side and instrumental in his side’s comeback.
- 12 – Tuivasa-Sheck ‘s 266 run metres saw him run for over 200 metres for the 12th time this season. Five of those were over 250 metres, including his NRL record of 368 metres in Round 17 against the Broncos.
- 64 – Add in tallies of 64 post-contact metres, and 14 tackle-breaks while you’re at it.
- 4,742 – Tuivasa-Sheck finishes the season having run for 4,742 metres. The second-highest season of his career and only 1,766 metres behind his record-breaking season for the Roosters in 2015.
- 100 – Only two Warriors forwards, Adam Blair (106 metres) and Jazz Tevaga (146) ran for over 100 metres. The Raiders’ Josh Papali’I (205) ran for more than both Warriors starting props combined.
Whilst it was an improved defensive effort, there is still work to be done across the board.
- 89% – The Warriors tackled better collectively as a unit, making 89% of their 345 tackles.
- 41 – Jazz Tevaga was once again the top tackler, making 41 stops – two above his average of 39 tackles per game.
- 95.7% – Leeson Ah Mau has missed just five tackles in the last 10 games, overall tackling at a 95.7% success rate this season. Outstanding.
In the end they did it, a victory against the odds. And a victory they deserved as they showed great desire, and courage to get the win. Rainbow’s End will be going out of business soon as in true Warriors style it was yet another free rollercoaster ride right to the end.