If you are going to crash a party, this is the way to do it.
In front of the biggest crowd in Canberra for years – there to celebrate Jarrod Croker’s 300th NRL game – the Warriors touched new heights.
They came up with their best defensive half of the season, then doubled down to produce a hot 40 minutes of attack for a stunning 36-14 victory.
It was the kind of win that will turn heads across the NRL and continues the revolution under Andrew Webster.
The only negative was the loss of Shaun Johnson in the 63rd minute, after a brutal head clash, though he later passed his HIA, while Mitch Barnett and Marata Niukore could face the judiciary this week after sinbins.
After trailing 8-6 at halftime, the Warriors scored four unanswered tries in the space of 19 minutes to stun the assembled Canberra faithful.
It was sizzling stuff – with the Warriors rampant through the middle – but the game was won in the first half.
The Warriors faced a massive deficit of territory and possession but simply refused to yield, continually finding a way to stop the Raiders attack. It was stirring stuff and mirrored the theme of resilience that has been a part of this season.
This result, ahead of a bye, solidifies the Warriors inside the top eight and it’s hard to see them falling out of it, if they can maintain this benchmark.
It’s difficult to single out star performers – in a true team effort – though Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was superb on his return to Canberra.
And it had all looked so unlikely from the start.
It felt like the Warriors were stuck in quicksand during the first quarter, as the Raiders were completely dominant. The visitors defended two goal line dropouts and were under constant pressure. A desperate Adam Pompey held up Brian Timoko over the line, while a whole posse were needed to stop Josh Papali’i.
Nothing was going right; even when the Raiders coughed up possession, they got it straight back, as a high shot from Jack Wighton jolted the ball free from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
The levee had to break, but it came in a streaky fashion, as Wighton regathered his own kick, after a deflection. It soon got worse, as Barnett was binned for a shoulder charge on Jordan Rapana.
The Raiders almost went close again – as Elliott Whitehead was denied by the bunker – before a magical try from Watene-Zelezniak on a rare Warriors attack. The winger defied gravity with a seemingly impossible put-down, after soaring for a Johnson cross-field kick centimetres from the sideline. A penalty took the home side back into the lead before halftime.
The Warriors were invigorated after the break. Two smart pieces of play from rookie Ali Leiataua set them on attack, before Nicoll-Klokstad got on the outside of Croker for a deserved try. It soon got even better, as Tom Ale ran off a superb Tohu Harris ball, as the captain shaped to go outside, then delayed the pass. The opportunity had come after a long-range break, with Luke Metcalf showing his pace.
The Warriors were full of confidence and it showed. They turned down a kickable penalty to attack again, with relentless waves ending with a beautiful Johnson pass sending Metcalf under the posts. But the halfback paid a price, leaving the field in a daze after a nasty collision with Whitehead.
But there was no stopping the Warriors, as Wayde Egan dummied his way over from close range to put the result beyond doubt. Papali’i grabbed a consolation, before Johnson returned to cap an eventful night with a try, plucking an intercept as the Raiders tried to attack from near their own line.
Warriors 36 (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Tom Ale, Luke Metcalf, Wayde Egan, Shaun Johnson tries; Johnson 4 cons, Adam Pompey 2 cons)
Raiders 14 (Jack Wighton, Josh Papali’i tries; Jarrod Croker 2 cons, pen)