The Raiders put in a reasonable effort against the New Zealand Warriors on Saturday evening, winning the day 38-12. But even the most ardent fan must concede that the Warriors did a lot of the hard work for them. With a string of errors coming out of their own end the Warriors simply gifted the Green Machine way too much close range possession, allowing the Raiders to constantly start sets deep inside the Warriors half.
Surprisingly the Raiders actually had more errors to their name (11-9), but they were usually after the Warriors had just dropped the pill, or just before it, negating the effect – the Warriors conversely suffered with at least two of the Raiders tries coming off poor ball control by the Warriors.
As Ricky pointed out post-match the most telling number was the Warriors 12 points. While not the stuff displayed by the top 4 teams the Raiders defence was strong enough to deny Warriors players from scoring on multiple occasions, getting bodies around the would-be scorer and wrapping up the ball.
And if it wasn’t errors hurting the home side it was penalties. Time after time the Warriors gave the Raiders penalties marching out of their 40, catapulting the Green Machine up the field and into attacking position.
Blake Austin was first to cross for the Raiders off the back of a rather big dummy and some hot-stepping, and some credit does have to go to Kurt Baptiste who started at hooker. It was his pass, while not sublime, that fired out of dummy half and had at least two defenders truly believing that the play was shifting wide, opening up the gap for Austin. Try #2 came from Leilua, who regathered a rather lucky ricochet off his own grubber to reach out and score. While not the flashiest execution it was yet another example of BJ’s much improved strength in 2016.
The 3rd try said more about the Warriors defence than it did the Raiders attack – a pretty standard left hand sweep that suddenly had Croker running through a rather large gap to score.
The Warriors hit back after the break, scoring off a somewhat bungled sweep which managed to suck in the Raiders outside defence. Within 10 minutes the Raiders struck back, Papali crashing through weak defence after the home side gifted the Raiders prime position with an error.
Josh Hodgson was in much better form after joining the game in the 20th minute, looking keen to run from dummy half and putting on some good passes. His highlight of the night was a try from dummy half, where he dived and twisted to get the ball down on the line, no doubt causing McFadden to snap his 7th pen of the evening. Back that up with a try to Edrick Lee of a Warriors dropped ball, and it was essentially game, set and match. The Warriors have pretty much whipped the Raiders in the majority of their last 5 encounters, but this time out they were a woeful shadow of the team.
The Baptiste/Hodgson experiment looks to have worked well, although it remains to be seen how long this trend will continue. While Baptiste is definitely tier 2 compared to Hodgson he did provide decent service as well as putting the onus back on Sezer and Austin to get into control.
I really can’t pass comment on either half this week as they were both pretty unmemorable – I know they both did things at certain points in the game, but apart from Austin’s try and Sezer’s failed 40/20 I can’t recall anything.
The forwards, led by Vaughan on 135 metres, were good, but they weren’t forced to do too much as the Warriors consistently gave the Raiders prime position. Vaughan was joined in the 100+ metre club by Bateman (112), Boyd (106) and Lima (102). Papali meanwhile continued his excellent run of form on the fringe, proving a constant headache for the struggling Warriors.
So where to from here? The Raiders will return home to rest and train before taking on an inform Dogs side who’ll be looking to make it three in a row (admittedly their last two scalps were cellar dwellers). Having ambushed Canterbury way back in round 5 the Raiders must enforce self-discipline when it comes to ball control and penalties, along with more adventurous play from the halves. Anything less will undoubtedly see the Dogs leaving Canberra with two comp points.
P.S Dan will be back for the next game to save you all from my rambling!