NRL: Warriors thrash Raiders

By David Skipwith

Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors is tackled during the round 21 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the New Zealand Warriors at GIO Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.
Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors is tackled during the round 21 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the New Zealand Warriors at GIO Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.

Warriors 54
Raiders 18

The Warriors blitzed a Canberra Raiders side who were dressed like the Incredible Hulk, but played more like his skittish and mild mannered alter-ego Bruce Banner.

The Raiders Marvel superhero-inspired uniform did little to help them in the face of a rampant Warriors side that were all power and class in a dominant 10 tries to three victory.

Winger Manu Vatuvei scored a second-half hat-trick and prop Sam Rapira crossed for a double, as the Warriors racked up more than 50 points for the third time in as many meetings with the Raiders.

The win is the Warriors first in three games and ends their 13-year-losing streak in Canberra and gives them their first victory at GIO Stadium since 1997.

After heading into the match in ninth position, the Warriors have surged up the NRL ladder into seventh, where they remain locked together on 24 points behind North Queensland and above both Melbourne and Parramatta.
Despite missing halfback Shaun Johnson for the second week in a row, the Warriors were clinical and composed throughout, with halves Thomas Leuluai and Chad Townsend - who kicked seven goals from 10 attempts - combining well to direct play and set their powerful outsides free.

Captain Simon Mannering paid tribute to the pair and was pleased with the way the side knuckled down without their chief playmaker.

"There's a lot of faith in the whole squad and whoever gets the job that they're going to do it," he said. "The guys out there did a great job in the halves and Tui [Lolohea] came off the bench as well. There's a lot of depth in that position and if we have injuries we have guys that can cover them."

Coach Andrew McFadden felt his team simply played to their potential and reaped the benefits after sticking to their game plan.

"I was always pretty confident that we could do that. We showed glimpses against the best defensive team last week but just didn't take our chances. The boys really concentrated on what we needed to do here and that's why we got the points."

The Raiders enjoyed the better of possession throughout the first half but were unable to make the most of their chances.

The Warriors, for the fifth game in a row, scored in the first 10 minutes, when back-rower Sione Lousi strolled over out wide on the back of their first powerful set.

Canberra continued to play within attacking range but fell further behind when Tomkins jinked and weaved past five defenders to score under the bar, with Townsend's goal putting them ahead 10-0 after 14 minutes.

Undeterred, the Raiders managed to force four line-drop outs in the opening 20, yet their weak left edge struggled defensively and were made to pay time and again, with Hurrell, Ben Matulino, and Rapira all scoring through that channel to make it 28-0 at the break.

The Warriors kept the foot on the throat after the break, despite losing Hurrell (hamstring), Tomkins (corked thigh) and prop Jacob Lillyman (ankle) to injuries. Rapira, Vatuvei and Laumape all crossed early, before Vatuvei ran in two more tries in the 64th and 68th minutes.

The Raiders finally showed some of the Hulk's rage, with Josh McCrone, Jarrod Croker, and Reece Robinson all scoring in the dying stages to leave a bittersweet taste in the visitor's mouths.

"Given the circumstances and the terrific job we did I'm not going to be too hard on the players. We had Sione and Simon playing in the centres so it's good practice for us playing under those circumstances," McFadden said.

Raiders 18 (Josh McCrone, Jarrod Croker, Reece Robinson tries; Croker 3 goals)
Warriors 54 (Sione Lousi, Sam Tomkins, Konrad Hurrell, Ben Matulino, Sam Rapira 2, Manu Vatuvei 3, Ngani Laumape tries; Townsend 7 from 10 goals)

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