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Fulltime score: Round 20 WARRIORS 24 v RAIDERS 16 Match summary: The New Zealand Warriors have celebrated the return of skipper Steven Price to overcome the Canberra Raiders 24-16 in Auckland this evening.
With a near perfect completion rate, the Warriors commanded the ruck and forced the Raiders into a night of defending their line.
The first points came after just five minutes when centre Jerome Ropati crashed over out wide. The try following repeat sets to the Warriors, and a sign of things to come.
But the Raiders showed plenty of ticker and came back against the run of play, prop forward Matt Adamson backing up to score in the 27th minute.
Minutes later the Warriors returned fire with hooker Lance Hohaia crashing over an at half time, the New Zealanders held a 12-6 lead.
The Warriors went further ahead when five eighth Nathan Fien took a a perfectly timed pass from half back Stacey Jones to score soon after the break.
The Raiders then scored back-to-back tries with David Howell (53rd minute) and then Michael Robertson (55th minute) scoring on both flanks to make it a two point ball game.
But the Warriors continued to mount pressure, adding more the Raiders' already massive workload.
Then in the 70th minute, Warriors winger Francis Meli backed up to score what turned out to be the match-winning try. Stacey Jones converted from near the sideline to give the Warriors an eight-point buffer, and the two competition points.
Warriors v Raiders match photos: Click here to see the photo gallery for this game
Scorers: NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS 24 Tries: Ropati, Hohaia, Fien, Meli Goals: Jones 4/4 Field Goals: Jones 0/1 CANBERRA RAIDERS 16 Tries: Adamson, Howell, Robertson Goals: Schifcofske 2/3
Ericsson Stadium Referee: Paul Simpkins Half time: Warriors 12-6
Live commentary: 0 min: The Warriors celebrate the return of front rower and skipper Steven Price back from injury. For the Raiders, winger Craig Frawley is out and will be replaced by Michael Robertson. Canberra first on the field and kept waiting by the home side. A huge crowd on hand in Auckland. Warriors kick off and the match is underway...
5 min: TRY - Warriors. Centre Jerome Ropati crashes over out wide following back-to-back sets. Video ref Steve Nash awards the try following a question mark over the grounding. Conversion from Stacey Jones is good, going just inside the uprights. Warriors 6-0
12 min: NEWS - An error from the Warriors lets the Raiders off the hook. The Raiders struggling to get out of their own half, the Warriors dominating the ruck and field position in the early stages.
20 min: NEWS - Still 6-0 to the Warriors. Raiders getting more ball now and following a penalty, have knocked back a shot at goal in favour of keeping the pressure on. The Warriors defensive line holds firm.
25 min: NEWS - Warriors about to launch their third attacking raid in-a-row on the Raiders' line, the home side getting repeat sets and the pressure is mounting.
27 min: TRY - Raiders. Counter-attack from the visitors, Matt Adamson scoring 8m in from touch. Follows a huge defensive effort at the other of the field and a big bust up the middle of the park. Conversion from Clinton Schifcofske is a beauty. 6-all
31 min: TRY - Warriors. Lance Hohaia crashes over following some smart lead-up work from Jones who finds Brent Webb and then Hohaia in support from close range. Conversion from Jones, just wide of the posts, is successful. Warriors 12-6
38 min: NEWS - The Raiders subjected yet another attacking raid on their line. Superb defence against the odds.
40 min: FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT - Warriors. Jones has an unsuccessful attempt at a one-pointer right on the stroke of half time.
Half time: Warriors 12-6 The Warriors are dominating, especially in the halves, and are enjoying close on 60% possession as well as have an almost perfect set-completion rate. Half back Stacey Jones and hooker Lance Hohaia being the notable standouts around the ruck while full back Brent Webb is chiming into the back line. The Raiders have been asked to do an enormous of tackling and have shown some excellent defence close to their line. Lincoln Withers in particular is working very hard in the middle. Being down by only six points must be a boost for the Raiders and if they can get some ball in the second half, it'll be anyone's game.
Second half underway...
46 min: TRY - Warriors. Five eighth Nathan Fien races through from 10m out off a Jones pass and scores under the posts. Conversion Jones. Warriors 18-6
53 min: TRY - Raiders. David Howell scores in the corner on the back of some catch-and-pass, against the run of play. Set up by Jason Smith who saw the numbers out wide. Conversion Schifcofske is a ripper. Warriors 18-12
55 min: TRY - Raiders. Michael Robertson scores in the corner following video ref scrutiny. Again, Jason Smith sees the unmarked flanker, this time on the left side. Conversion attempt from Schifcofske hits the upright and is waved away. Warriors 18-16
60 min: NEWS - the game has a different look about it now with the Raiders lifting, but possession still favouring the Warriors.
64-67 min: NEWS - Warriors get a penalty right in front following a professional foul but they opt to go the tap. Raiders hold them out but Warriors get yet another set. And yet another... three in-a-row. But Raiders line drop-out is a short one and they get the ball back!
70 min: TRY - Warriors. Francis Meli scores 7m in from touch. Follows a scramble for the ball with Clinton Toopi flicking inside up off the ground and into the arms of Meli. Conversion from Jones is an absolute beauty, right over the black dot. Warriors 24-16
75 min: NEWS - Still 24-16 to the Warriors. Raiders still trying to win through defence with driving tackles to force a Warriors' drop out.
78 min: NEWS - Warriors defend their line successfully and should now have enough to take the points.
Full time: Warriors defeat Raiders 24-16. A big win for the Warriors who enjoyed plenty of possession and field position throughout the match. A special effort from front rower Ruben Wiki playing against his old club and he was one the best in a winning pack. Half back Stacey Jones led his charges well and was always in the thick of the action. Special mention to prop Steve Price who put in a grand effort coming back from injury. Five eighth Nathan Fien, fullback Brent Webb and hooker Lance Hohaia were all stand-outs for the home side. The Raiders put in a tremendous defensive effort in what was a very physical encounter. Hooker Lincoln Withers put together no less than 58 tackles and was the best in a losing side, the Raiders almost coming back thanks to their defence. Jason Smith also tried hard to set up play and Clinton Schifcofske was never far away in trying to spark the Raiders' limited opportunities in attack.
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - S Jones (Warriors) 2 - R Wiki (Warriors) 1 - L Withers (Raiders) -----------------------------------------