Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: A magical end to hex's spell

Warriors Shaun Johnson on his way to one of his two tries. Photo / Getty Images
Warriors Shaun Johnson on his way to one of his two tries. Photo / Getty Images

This is how to break a hex. Don't just stop it - smash it to smithereens. At their sixth attempt, the Warriors ended their Eden Park hoodoo in spectacular fashion, with a record win over the Canberra Raiders.

This match had it all - some brilliant tries, punishing defence, a storming display from man of the moment Konrad Hurrell and even a tidy cameo at hooker from the forgotten Kevin Locke. To top it off, Canberra coach Ricky Stuart issued a public apology to Raiders' fans after the match in the wake of consecutive floggings.

It's not times for Warriors fans to get carried away. They are far from the finished product and the Raiders were terrible, especially their edge defence, but this Warriors side is a team on the march.

"We didn't expect to win like that but it was great that we stayed focussed," coach Andrew McFadden said. "That is the kind of performance we have been building towards."

There was a noticeable crispness about the Warriors last night, as high-speed plays constantly came off. One tip-on from Sam Tomkins was a touch of supreme skill and Shaun Johnson was at his dazzling best.

However McFadden, who may be confirmed as permanent head coach as soon as next week, isn't getting carried away.

"We're on eight points now and have a long way to go. But we are learning how to win now which is really important."

The Warriors scored nine tries last night and broke the 50-point barrier for just the third time in three seasons. The 42-point winning margin was also their largest win over the ACT side, eclipsing the 50-16 victory in round 25 last year.

Tomkins was prominent throughout, providing several skilful assists, while Hurrell ended his difficult week with a barnstorming display. Johnson had a magic night with the boot - converting all nine tries - and grabbed two typical poachers tries and the forwards also hunted as a pack.

The Warriors made the perfect start as Ben Matulino crossed untouched in the fourth minute, running a great line from a Chad Townsend pass. Three minutes later Hurrell thundered 70m to score an impressive individual try.

There was more to come.

Stuart's team looked bereft of ideas out wide, and struggled to make an impact up front. They got back into the game briefly - Croker out jumping Ngani Laumape to a Terry Campese bomb in the 22nd minute - but Laumape made amends 11 minutes later from an impressive set move.

In recent years the Warriors playbook has lacked penetrative plays from the scrum base but this was a beauty, Tomkins and Johnson producing swift flat passes to release Laumape as other runners provided decoys.

Any hope of a unlikely Canberra revival in the second spell were extinguished six minutes into the second half when Johnson scooped up a loose ball and ran 80m to score between the posts. The game was in the bag but the Warriors didn't relent, with four more tries in the last 30 minutes including a outstanding team try to Tomkins.

Warriors 54 (B. Matulino, K.Hurrell, S.Johnson 2, N. Laumape, M. Vatuvei 2, S. Tomkins, J. Bukuya tries; S. Johnson 9 goals) Raiders 12 (J. Croker 2 tries, 2 goals). Halftime: 24-6.

- Herald on Sunday

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