NRL: Warriors find form at last to close out Canberra

Warriors 34 Raiders 20

Warriors stand-off Joel Moon takes on the Canberra defence during today's game in Auckland. Photo / Getty Images
Warriors stand-off Joel Moon takes on the Canberra defence during today's game in Auckland. Photo / Getty Images

The hint of a smile was seen to crease the face of New Zealand Warriors rugby league coach Ivan Cleary today.

And well it might after his side rediscovered winning form to score six tries in beating National Rugby League rivals Canberra 34-20 in Auckland.

The Warriors entered the match at Mt Smart Stadium on the back end of one win in their past eight outings to sit 14th in the 16-team competition.

Coming off a 4-40 pasting by Parramatta and with nothing more than pride to play for, the Warriors were keen to repay the faith of their most ardent supporters.

They did so by displaying an urgency so sorely lacking in a hugely disappointing season although their seventh win in 22 matches was not enough for them to pass the 13th-placed Canberra Raiders on the competition standings.

The spark today came from their younger brigade, with standoff Joel Moon and utility Aaron Heremaia playing influential roles.

Heremaia particularly impressed by setting up one try and scoring another himself in the first half, which enabled the Warriors to go to the break 16-10 ahead despite conceding two soft tries to Josh McCrone and Jarrod Croker.

Heremaia sparked the game's first try in the eighth minute by making the initial break before feeding an unmarked Lance Hohaia.

He grabbed the next himself just three minutes later after surging out of dummy half as the Warriors came out of the blocks fast to earn a 12-0 advantage.

The Raiders hit back when McCrone strolled through a big hole in the Warriors defensive line in the 27th minute then Croker stretched over the line after Warriors errors enabled Canberra to surge on to attack.

Given their dominance the Warriors should not have found their lead slashed to 12-10, particularly not when they butchered two near-certain tries because of sloppy passing.

But Simon Mannering edged them further clear shortly before the halftime break when Canberra were caught short on the left flank after conceding a repeat set in their own 22.

The Warriors scored first after the interval too, as centre Jerome Ropati added their fourth try in the 52nd minute when he leapt high to haul in a bomb from standoff Moon before scampering to the line.

Ahead 22-10 entering the final quarter many would consider the match safe for the Warriors, but it remained a nervous period for those who have watched the side implode on a number of occasions this year.

But with regular captain Steve Price on deck again after an injury-enforced layoff, the Warriors did not flinch, and the game was made safe with 19min remaining by Hohaia.

The utility showed exemplary handling for his second try as he latched on to a nicely floated kick by halfback Stacey Jones which drifted between the uprights.

Moon then completed a fine performance by nabbing a deserved try just minutes later when he sold a dummy and darted between two defenders.

Canberra scored late consolation tries to Croker and Joel Thompson as the minutes ticked down but they were never in a position to end a losing streak in Auckland which stretches back to 2001.

The Warriors have two matches remaining, away to Canterbury in Sydney next Sunday ahead of a home game against Melbourne Storm.

New Zealand Warriors 34 (Lance Hohaia 2, Aaron Heremaia, Simon Mannering, Jerome Ropati, Joel Moon tries; Kevin Locke 5 goals) Canberra Raiders 20 (Jarrod Croker 2, Josh McCrone, Joel Thompson tries; Terry Campese 2 goals). Halftime: 16-10.

- NZPA

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