Warriors stun Raiders to pull off incredible comeback win

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 28 Mar 2021, 3:53PM
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's stunning try-saver on Jordan Rapana. Photo / Getty
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's stunning try-saver on Jordan Rapana. Photo / Getty

Warriors stun Raiders to pull off incredible comeback win

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 28 Mar 2021, 3:53PM

Warriors 34
Raiders 31

Maybe, just maybe, there is something brewing for the Warriors in 2021.

That's the inescapable feeling after their improbable 34-31 victory against the Raiders on Saturday, where they reeled in a massive 25-6 halftime deficit.

It's too soon to get carried away, and too early to talk about turning points, but this was the kind of victory that builds immeasurable belief and spirit.

Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck capped a heroic display with a try-saving effort on Jordan Rapana with nine seconds left on the clock, jolting the ball free as the Raiders winger looked set to score.

The Warriors looked to have sealed the game with a 77th minute Adam Pompey try, but they couldn't defuse the subsequent short kick-off from the Raiders, setting up a dramatic final set for the home side.

It was the biggest comeback in the Warriors history, as they scored five second half tries, four coming in the last 29 minutes, to reel in what was a 21-point deficit at 31-10.

The previous best was against Newcastle in 2005, when they recovered from 20-0 down to win 30-26.

There were significant mitigating circumstances on Saturday, as the Raiders lost three forwards in the first 12 minutes (one injury and two concussions), which left them severely compromised in the second half, while centre Curtis Scott was a passenger with a rib injury in the final quarter.

Canberra showed great courage in the circumstances, with virtually no interchange bench, but so did the Warriors, with their conviction to keep believing, especially when they trailed by 31-10 with less than 30 minutes to play.

They were a touch fortunate, with one try coming from a clear forward pass, but the Warriors have endured their fair share of tough officiating calls over the last two or three seasons.

It could be the kind of performance that becomes a benchmark, a 'remember-when' rallying cry for the rest of the season. It also puts a different complexion on their upcoming run of matches.

Tuivasa-Sheck was outstanding, while halfback Sean O'Sullivan impressed on Warriors debut and Nikorima sparked to life in the second half, behind a strong forward effort.

The Warriors made the best possible start. After gaining a repeat set, soft hands from O'Sullivan and Eliesa Katoa put Addin Fonua-Blake across in his 100th NRL game.

Raiders lock Joseph Tapine left the field soon afterwards with an ankle injury, before two of his teammates were concussed after a brutal head clash.

Despite their lack of manpower, the Raiders responded, with Jack Wighton steamrolling Nikorima from close range.

They started a Raiders blitzkrieg, with three tries in eleven minutes. Ryan Sutton and Sia Soliolia both benefited from the guile of Josh Hodgson, while George Williams eluded static defence to score a soft try.

Nikorima scored a wonderful individual try just after halftime, handling twice in the movement, but hopes of a comeback seems to be extinguished after Elliott Whitehead finished off a Raiders move from inside their own half in the 47th minute, to push the deficit to 21.

A Bayley Sironen try – after a bruising Ben Murdoch-Masila break – raised hopes again, as the undermanned Raiders started to tire.

Murdoch-Masila then crossed in highly controversial circumstances, as the pass from Nikorima appeared to be a metre forward.

The Raiders were at a standstill and the Warriors kept coming.

Tohu Harris twisted brilliantly in a tackle to feed Tuivasa-Sheck, as the Warriors closed to 31-28 with 10 minutes to play.

A late dubious captain's challenge in favour of the Raiders looked set to be a flashpoint, but the Warriors didn't drop their heads, with Pompey slashing through on the left to finish an impressive march downfield and cue wild celebrations.

Warriors 34 (Fonua-Blake, Nikorima, Sironen, Murdoch-Masila, Tuivasa-Sheck Pompey tries; Nikorima 5 goals)
Raiders 31 (Wighton, Sutton, Soliolia, Williams, Whitehead tries; Croker 5 goals, Williams field goal)
Halftime: 6-25

text by Michael Burgess, NZ Herald