Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Warriors lose another heartbreaker

Warriors 22 Raiders 26

The Warriors have slumped to their third defeat in four games, falling 26-22 to the Raiders in Canberra in a heartbreaker.

Raiders' captain Jarrod Croker scored an 82nd minute try in the golden point period, for the Warriors' third extra time loss of the season.

It will be a bitter pill to swallow, after the Auckland club had produced probably the comeback of the year.

They trailed 22-4 with less than 10 minutes to play before three tries - and an Issac Luke conversion from the sideline on the hooter - forced golden point.

But the adrenalin of that period seemed to cost them in golden point, as they switched off momentarily and allowed the Raiders go the length of the field and score in the first set of the extra period.

The result means that the Raiders go into the top four, while the Warriors will stay outside the top eight. There was no lack of effort from the Warriors - this is a team that continues to maintain the high standards it has set since the middle of the season - but their execution, aside from the frantic final 10 minutes - was poor.

The Auckland side had dominated most of the first half but couldn't convert that into a buffer on the scoreboard. The Raiders then wrestled back the momentum with two tries in the shadows of halftime, and were the favourites from there.

After the travails of last week, it was no surprise that Manu Vatuvei opened the scoring - but the way he did it certainly was. The 'Beast' showed the grace and balance of a 110 kilo ballerina, as he juggled a high David Fusitua pass three times, caught the ball behind his back and soared towards the try line. He became the only the player in the modern era to make the 150 mark, and the 11th in history.

That should have been the start of something in the first half but it wasn't. The Warriors completely dominated the next period but couldn't extend their lead. The Raiders defence was impressive, but the Warriors didn't help themselves. Too much of their play was behind the advantage line, happy to sling the ball sideways and try to engineer a gap.

When they did make inroads, they took the wrong option, letting Canberra off the hook, kicking when they should run, or throwing a cut out ball despite a numbers advantage.

Their spells inside the opposition 22 had a sense of randomness about them, epitomised by Fusitua grubber on the fourth tackle which went all of one metre and gifted possession back to the Raiders, or a prop dying with the ball on the last. Instead of stretching the defence to breaking point, they consistently allowed the defensive line to regroup.

Inevitably, Canberra made them pay, with two tries in the last three minutes of the half to Croker and Joseph Tapine. Both showed creativity, and also exposed a hesitant Warriors defence.

The omens weren't good from there, as the Warriors hadn't been able to recover from a halftime deficit all season. Croker extended the Raiders advantage on the hour mark - after the Warriors couldn't stop a Josh Papalii offload - and the game looked as good as over.

But the Warriors mounted an unlikely comeback, with two tries in three minutes to Leuluai. It still looked an improbable task, before Fusitua scored one of his miracle touchdowns with seconds remaining, and Luke converted under immense pressure.

Warriors 22 (M Vatuvei, T Leuluai 2, D Fusitua tries, I Luke 3 goals )
Raiders 26 (J Croker 3, J Tapine, J Leilua tries; J Croker 3 goals)
Halftime: 12-4

- NZ Herald

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