Canberra Raiders produced a stunning second half comeback to end the New Zealand Warriors season in a 28-16 success tonight at Mackay.
In a stunning reverse from earlier this season, Canberra Raiders piled on 28 straight points to move into eighth spot and keep their season alive for another weekend led by their mercurial fullback turned winger Jordan Rapana.
Back in Round 3, New Zealand Warriors put together a superb 21-point comeback in the nation's capital. Plenty has changed since then but the Raiders gave the Warriors a small slice of payback in Mackay. Canberra scored 28 straight points to keep their season alive and subsequently end the Warriors chances.
A late four-pointer to utility Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad gave the Raiders a spark to make it 16-6 at the break. In the second half, the Raiders were transformed. The Green Machine churned through the metres early then Sebastian Kris got them back ignited the comeback when he scored in the 42nd minute to get them back within six.
Enter Jordan Rapana. He set up the equaliser when Jack Wighton's cut-out gave Rapana space down the left touchline before he tossed it inside to Kris to complete his brace for 16-all. Rapana stepped up late in the contest for a penalty goal which would steer the side home. He hooked the conversion wide but there was one more moment of magic to come from the veteran.
Into the final minute, fresh from Reece Walsh missing from mid range, Raiders looked set to position for a field goal themselves late in the count. On last, the ball was flung left, it went through the hands before who else, Jordan Rapana, sliced through to keep the Raiders season alive. The passion shown by coach Ricky Stuart on the sideline following that four-pointer showed they still believe.
Earlier, it seemed like it was time to illuminate the no's in the vacany signs for the Raiders top eight hopes. Warriors scored within the first 60 seconds when hooker Wayde Egan pushed through some flimsy defense before setting up the returning Sean O'Sullivan close to the post.
It seemed like every half bounce was on the Warriors side in their chase for the top eight. A high kick was fumbled by Bailey Simonsson before Rocco Berry swept up the ball to make it 10-nil then it was rinse, repeat when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was the spot for another Simonsson error and stretched the advantage out to 156 points in the first half hour of the contest.
Unfortunately, the Warriors, as has been the custom in 2021 faded away. Some crucial errors of both judgment and ball skill let them down in the second half where some sutained pressure might have seen the Raiders wilt. Warriors weren't helped with injuries to Chad Townsend which disrupted their halves. Lucky coach Nathan Brown has lost his hair otherwise he would be pulling out after that game.
It all comes down to next weekend for the Raiders. They sit in eighth position with their only challengers Cronulla left to play this weekend against the Broncos before they finish the season with a tough game against the Storm. Canberra finish off their campaign with another game against recent rivals, Sydney Roosters.