Warriors mark Mannering milestone with win
The Warriors got the gritty pre-finals win they wanted with a 20-16 win over Canberra in a milestone night for the Kiwi NRL club.
With man of the moment Simon Mannering watching on injured, the Warriors did enough in the second half to win a bruising affair in front of a sold-out Mt Smart Stadium on Friday.
Halfback Shaun Johnson slotted two penalties to put the hosts in front near the end. It was similar to when the teams met in round three, when Johnson’s two late field goals steered them home 20-19.
The result rockets the Warriors from eighth to fifth early in the final round of the regular season.
Having won four of their last five games, they could yet host a finals match in Auckland.
However, they will have to cross the Tasman if two of the Panthers, Dragons and Broncos post wins this weekend.
The arm-wrestle nature of the match was fitting for workhorse Mannering, who became the first player to notch 300 matches for the Warriors.
His involvement in the post-season is in doubt, however, after exiting soon after halftime with an apparent sternum injury.
It was also an emotional night for the Raiders, who farewelled forwards Shannon Boyd and Junior Paulo, along with five-eighth Blake Austin.
It was the eighth game Canberra have lost by less than six points this season.
They hit the front when a Sam Williams 40-20 set up the opening try to Josh Papalii, who spun over in Johnson’s tackle.
Centre Solomone Kata and winger David Fusitu’a put the Warriors up with unconverted tries before Williams levelled the halftime score at 8-8 with a penalty.
Fusitu’a’s try came via an outrageous no-look flick pass from centre Peta Hiku, extending the winger’s competition-leading try tally to 22.
Hiku sliced over shortly after the break, once again down a Warriors right edge which has been menacing all season.
Canberra responded when Jordan Rapana kept a grubber kick alive in the in-goal and Elliott Whitehead pounced on Kata’s blunder.
Williams levelled at 16-16 with a penalty before Johnson’s twin penalties.
Canberra twice appeared to cross in a thrilling final seven minutes but Austin (knock-on) and Williams (obstruction) were both denied tries by the bunker.
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