Raiders 20 Warriors 8

‚ÄčIf the NRL is all about taking opportunities, the Warriors got a lesson tonight.

They played some of their best football of the season, especially in the first half, but an inability to convert pressure into points saw them go down 20-8 to the Raiders.

It was a harsh way to learn - and will be even harder to stomach tomorrow morning - but that was the reality. Canberra took their chances, the Warriors didn't, unable to score a try in the final 74 minutes of the match.

They weren't helped by the officials, with Josh Hodgson's crucial try coming after a shocking blunder, but the home side still deserved their victory.

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They out muscled the Warriors up front, outclassed them in the backs and defended grimly.

The match turned in the first half. The Warriors should have been out of sight on the scoreboard but couldn't capitalise on a mountain of possession and territory. They still lack polish on their set plays, and were unable to engineer much second phase play, though the Raiders defence was remarkable, with a Jarrod Croker effort on Tuivasa-Sheck one of the tackles of the season.

There were some positives. Tuivasa-Sheck played like a man possessed, and one particular kick reception was the best running catch seen in Canberra since Jonty Rhodes patrolled the covers at Manuka Oval in the 1990s. Simon Mannering produced his best attacking game of the season, with some offloads and strong surges, showing what is possible when he is allowed to be more than a tackling machine.

As we often see in the NRL, the refereeing was a mystery. For long periods in the first half, when the Warriors monopolised possession, the officials seemed to swallow their whistles, only to find helpful indiscretions when the Raiders regained the ball.

The Warriors were in their alternative away strips, and their start was white hot. The first 20 minutes was easily their best quarter this season. They were powerful and purposeful, and for a while a casual viewer might have been rubbing their eyes, wondering if it was actually the Warriors. After opening the scoring through Ryan Hoffman - which leapt well to take a Kieran Foran bomb - their play was so robotic it was beautiful. They forced three successive repeat sets but they couldn't prise open the Raiders defence. Soon afterwards Joseph Leilua powered over, as Ken Maumalo belied his size with a weak grab.

The Raiders gave a great impersonation of the Warriors sides of the early 2000s, with their propensity to offload at will. Hodgson spent most of the night attempting to strip the ball, and the Raiders defenders were often camped in the Warriors backline.

The second half was a grind, though momentum swung to the Raiders, as they started to gain the physical edge. Leilua's second was a killer, as Solomone Kata and Maumalo were again caught on their heels before Hodgson dived over to seal the result in the 67th minute.

Raiders 20 (J Leilua 2, J Hodgson tries; J Croker 4 goals)
Warriors 8 (R Hoffman try; S Johnson 2 goals)
Halftime: 6-8