NRL: Rampant Warriors keep season alive

By Michael Brown

Manu Vatuvei scored a first-half hat-trick as the Warriors thumped the Raiders 50-16 to keep alive their finals hopes. Photo / Getty
Manu Vatuvei scored a first-half hat-trick as the Warriors thumped the Raiders 50-16 to keep alive their finals hopes. Photo / Getty

Warriors 50
Raiders 16

It was old boys' day at Mt Smart Stadium in the last home game of the season but, rather than looking backwards, the Warriors are still looking ahead because their dream of making the top eight is still alive.

It was inevitable the Warriors would take their season into the final week because they have taken fans on a ride with more ups and downs than an elevator.

Often when the stakes are high teams can go into their shells. Not the Warriors as they produced some of the most scintillating football of the season in a nine-tries-to-three victory over Canberra.

They played with a freedom and tempo that might have suggested their season was already over or they were safely ensconced in the top eight, and they can trouble any side in the competition in this sort of mood.

There might be a few sides across the Tasman who might hope the Warriors miss out on the top eight because, if they can replicate this sort of form, they could do some damage.

Admittedly, the Raiders lost interest once the result was beyond doubt and conceded 30 points in a blistering 20-minute period in the second half.

The result eliminates them from contention and compounds what has been a miserable couple of weeks punctuated by a coach sacking and double player scandal.

The Warriors' chances of making the top eight are still slim and they need to beat the Dragons in Wollongong next weekend, something they have never done before, and hope other results go their way to have any chance.

With the Knights winning last night, tomorrow's Sharks game against the Cowboys carries tremendous importance and Warriors fans will hope Cronulla can inflict an important defeat on a Cowboys side one a four-game winning run.

Manu Vatuvei scored a hat-trick inside nine first-half minutes but, not to be outdone, Shaun Johnson did the same in only seven second-half minutes. Quite bizarrely, Jarrod Croker also scored three tries for the Raiders in a night of hat-tricks.

The Warriors weren't totally faultless, worryingly taking their foot off the throat for 20 minutes in the first half and allowing Canberra to lead 12-6, but they weren't far off it. They had a couple of calls go their way but they also made their own luck with some exciting football.

They attacked from everywhere as they shifted the ball from side to side and the offloads usually stuck but they also did the grind well as they showed great line speed and a good kick chase.

It started inside the opening 90 seconds when Elijah Taylor crossed, and ended when Ngani Laumape scored the Warriors' ninth try of the night with 12 minutes remaining.

Thomas Leuluai ran the show in the first half as he sent traffic down the left edge, with a rampaging Vatuvei reaping the benefits, and Johnson took over in the second half as he showed everyone what he can do.

They will all hope they can still show everyone beyond next weekend.

Warriors 50 (Manu Vatuvei 3, Shaun Johnson 3, Elijah Taylor, Simon Mannering, Ngani Laumape tries; Johnson 7 gls)
Raiders 16 (Jarrod Croker 2 tries; Croker 2 gls).
HT: 20-12.

- APNZ

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