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NZ Warriors comeback for first NRL win

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak starred as the NZ Warriors came from behind to kick-start their 2024 NRL campaign with an 18-10 defeat of the Canberra Raiders in Christchurch on Friday night.

Coming off back-to-back narrow losses, the Warriors found themselves in another close contest but Tuivasa-Sheck and Watene-Zelezniak ensured they were on the right side of the scorecard in front of a full house at Apollo Projects Stadium.

Chasing a 3-0 start to their season, the Raiders stayed in the contest until the end but the Warriors bounced back from last weekend's heart-breaking loss in Melbourne after Xavier Coates scored on the last play of the game. 

The Warriors showed some early confidence on the back of a Raiders error, with Shaun Johnson finding Addin Fonua-Blake in space who brushed off Raiders defenders before strolling over the line.

The Raiders looked to hit back in the 30th minute when five-eighth Ethan Strange muscled his way over the line, however, the try was denied after the bunker ruled a loss of possession.


But the Raiders had momentum and, in their next set, star centre Matt Timoko stamped his authority, powering through Tuivasa-Sheck and Marcela Montoya to make it 6-4.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and the NZ Warriors picked up their first win of the NRL season. PHOTO: NRL

Canberra were on the attack in the shadows of halftime and in range for a two-point field goal but Watene-Zelezniak laid on a huge tackle on Albert Hopoate to ensure his side took their two-point lead to the sheds.

After holding off the Warriors for repeated sets on their line, the Raiders stole the lead when Jamal Fogarty delivered a peach of a pass for Timoko, who tipped on to right wing Nick Cotric to score. Fogarty converted to make it 10-6.

Canberra's lead was short-lived as Watene-Zelezniak took the ball across-field before finding a perfectly positioned Luke Metcalf, who dived over next to the uprights for a 62nd minute try. Metcalf converted to make it 12-10.

Tuivasa-Sheck put the Warriors further ahead just three minutes later after swooping on a fumbled Metcalf kick before powering through Hudson Young and Hopoate to stretch the lead 18-10. 

"We've had two weeks where we played pretty and looked really good at times and tonight probably didn't look as good but we got the win and sometimes you've got to win lucky," said Warriors coach Andrew Webster.

"I'm really wrapped for the boys, they dug in at the end there and found a way to get it done. I think there's going to be a huge amount of relief and we can move on from here which is good."

The Warriors return to Auckland to host the Newcastle Knights in a semifinal rematch next Sunday (kick-off 5.05pm), while the Raiders are back on the road next week to meet the Cronulla Sharks at PointsBet Stadium.

NZ Warriors 18 (Addin Fonua-Blake, Luke Metcalf, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tries; Luke Metcalf 3 con) Canberra Raiders 10 (Matthew Timoko, Nick Cotric tries; Jamal Fogarty con). HT: 6-4


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