After featuring in six straight games decided by 22-plus points (winning five), Warriors fans were probably due some heart palpitations that have been a near weekly occurence for the past 28 and a bit years.
And there’s few Warriors-supporting observers that would not be wondering how the hell they blew a 10-point lead with less than two minutes left, survived an after-the-siren conversion and then came away with a 21-20 golden point victory over Canberra.
But there’s few mental tortures the TWL team wouldn’t go through to revel in a Shaun Johnson match-winning field goal.
In an absorbing contest, both teams saw tries go begging in a tight first half, before the Warriors landed a crucial blow on halftime to take a 14-6 lead. The hosts had by far the better of the second half and extended the advantage to 14 points.
But a Jordan Rapana try from a kick in the 63rd minute kept the Raiders in the frame, setting the scene for a long, gruelling period of goal-line defence for the Warriors – a test they repeatedly passed until the softest of tries from a grubber with a shade over 60 seconds remaining.
Incredibly, the visitors went the length with Jack Wighton finishing off a long-range try in the corner…but Jarrod Croker pulled the conversion across the face of the uprights.
At the end of their first golden point set, Shaun Johnson – head swathed in bandages from a late-game head knock – wrote another chapter in his 2023 fairytale (and the Warriors’, for that matter) with his 18th NRL field goal to clinch the two points.
It was a less than ideal way to win a game, but I think most of us would have taken a victory by any means in a banana skin game before the bye ahead of a cruisy run home.
The upshot is the Warriors leapfrog the Raiders on the ladder and will finish the weekend no worse than equal-fourth on the NRL ladder heading into the bye.
Life remains very good.
Now here’s your Kingz Container Crew player ratings.
1 CHARNZE NICOL-KLOKSTAD: A couple of errors at the back could not detract from another massive display from CNK. Outstanding and crucial try on halftime, second on the park with 186 metres on 21 runs, a team-high five tackle-breaks, busy on attack and superb awareness to win the seven-tackle set in golden point that set up the win. 8
2 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK: Steaming towards the Warriors’ season tryscoring record after racing in for his 16th in just 13 games, but had an uncharacteristically low nine runs for 72 metres. However, DWZ made an enormous contribution with some brilliant takes under pressure and clean-up work near the Warriors’ line, including a remarkable try-saving play on Sebastian Kris in the first half (which Ricky Stuart embarrassingly said was a high tackle, should have been a penalty try and cost the Raiders the game). Caught in no man’s land as the Raiders’ scored an incredible equaliser, but the defensive damage had been done by the players inside him. 7.5
3 ROCCO BERRY: Building on last week’s breakout performance, Berry suddenly looks very much at home in first grade. Hungry for work with 10 runs for 126 metres, 18 tackles without a miss and exquisite quick hands to produce the assist for Dallin. Could have done better when the Raiders torched the Warriors’ right edge in the last minute of regulation, but it was a tough spot for the tyro centre. 7.5
4 ADAM POMPEY: A decent bounce-back from being the most ordinary player in a dominant team last week, particularly from a work-rate perspective: 14 runs for 122 metres and 21 tackles. Also a line-break and line-break assist. Overshadowed a bit by wrecking-ball opposite Timoko but a positive outing. 7
5 MARCELO MONTOYA: Carted the ball up with typcial gusto for 139 metres on 14 runs, but was outjumped by Rapana for a try that kept the Raiders in it. Not terrible, but not one to remember. 6
6 LUKE METCALF: A half-step back after some sizzling performances in recent weeks. Shocker of a dropped ball on the first tackle from a scrum win with the Warriors hot on attack in the first half among three errors for the match. Much better second half, looking more dangerous as a ball-player and ball-runner, while he made some key stops on much bigger men among 21 tackles. 6.5
7 SHAUN JOHNSON: Another week, another extraordinary notch in SJ’s 2023 renaissance belt. Not the constant top-shelf level we saw against Cronulla and a few loose moments, but in a tough and tense affair, no less impressive. Wonderful try assist for Charnze and controlled the second half with a majestic kicking game, including two forced drop outs. A couple of crucial in-goal clean-ups, too. And of course, a brilliant golden point field goal under intense defensive pressure, minutes after having his head split in a friendly-fire clash. Dally Ms soon. 8
8 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE: What a weapon. Played 70 minutes at the coalface, made a game-high 212 metres (92 post-contact) from 21 runs, and 34 tackles. Was even more of a stud through the middle than those numbers make him sound. 8.5
9 WAYDE EGAN: Started the party with a lovely try assist for Niukore early on. Few opportunities to show off his running game but a stable presence through 82 minutes at dummy-half and reeled off a game-high 55 tackles. Beautfiul service to Johnson for the Warriors’ other two tries. 7.5
15 MITCH BARNETT: Promoted to the starting side and was rock-solid and industrious against the club he made his NRL debut for. Made 13 runs for 134 metres along with 34 tackles to further establish himself as the No.2 prop in the club. 7.5
11 JACKSON FORD: Just five runs for 37 metres but an absolute terrier in defence with 51 tackles. Looks like a nightmare to play against. Blotted his display slightly with a penalty for some overzealousness in the play-the-ball. 7
12 MARATA NIUKORE: Certainly an eventful 20-minute return from suspension. Ran a great line to score in the opening minutes, spilled his lollies to allow opposing second-rower Hudson Young to run away for the Raiders’ first, then failed his HIA. 5.5
13 TOHU HARRIS: Fifty tackles in 55 minutes on the park – that’s absurd. Had enough in the tank to make nine runs for 86 metres and do some ball-playing. Nice to see him get a bit of a rest lately. 7.5
14 DYLAN WALKER: Great impact as per, troubling the Canberra defence on nine runs for 88 metres, bobbing up as a ball-player on the reg and making 25 tackles in 44 minutes. 7
10 BUNTY AFOA: Oof, demoted from the starting team in a late change and given just 13 minutes. Busy enough during that time with 16 tackles and two strong hit-ups, as well as being pinged for a ruck infringement. 5
18 BAYLEY SIRONEN: Restored to the bench after not being named in the 17 on Tuesday and got 23 minutes from the pine, making six runs for 56 metres and making 12 tackles. Pinged for an inside-the-10 set restart. 5.5
20 JOSH CURRAN: Another surprise Team List Tuesday omission from the 17, Curran was added late and played a huge part in the win defensively. Just two runs but 26 tackles in 49 minutes of game-time, including some tremendous stops in scramble D and hurtful efforts that forced errors. 7