NRL 2021: Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart storms out on media, after shock Warriors comeback

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has stormed out on media, rather than risk a fine, after his side's shock 34-31 loss to NZ Warriors.

The Auckland side seemed down and out, when they trailled 25-6 at halftime and fell 21 points behind soon after the restart, but took advantage of a tiring 'Green Machine' outfit down to one interchange player, after a series of injuries.

They scored four unanswered tries and barely survived a last-minute raid that saw captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck dislodge the ball, as Raiders wing Jordan Rapana dove at the corner for a matchwinning try. 

The result - their biggest-ever comback - against the title contenders on their own turf significantly boosts the Warriors, who have now taken two wins from their first three games of the 2021 campaign, losing by four points to Newcastle Knights last week.

But Stuart is seething that his team's brave effort went unrewarded, particularly when one of the Warriors tries came from an apparent forward pass between half Kodi Nikorima and barnstorming forward Ben Murdoch-Masila.

"In all my years of coaching - 18, 19, 20 years - I've probably never been involved in a greater team of forwards," Stuart says.

"I've never seen a group of individuals, which were down to 14, play so well, yet play through such adversity and for each other. I know it's in us and I've learnt tonight it's even more in us.

"I've got a winning team in there. We didn't get the points tonight, but I know which changing room I prefer to be coaching."

Among the Raiders body count was Kiwis forward Joseph Tapine, who lasted only 10 minutes, before leaving the field with a leg injury. Within two minutes, replacement Ryan James and centre Sebastian Kris were also on the bench, after colliding heads.

Centre Curtis Scott was forced to play on through a painful rib injury that the Warriors sought to exploit on defence, as they closed fast over the dying moments.

Ricky Stuart at media conference
Ricky Stuart at media conference. Photo credit: Getty

"I came here because I've got a job and I respect the fact you've got a job," Stuart told media. "I don't turn up here tonight, I get fined.

"I can't tell you the truth, I can't tell you how that game panned out, because I'd get fined, so I'm not going to answer any questions, I've done my job, thanks."

While understandably happy with the win, Warriors counterpart Nathan Brown has some sympathy for Stuart.

"The opposition clearly showed why they've been a top-four team," he says, "To lose three players and have a bloke with a broken rib floating, it probably showed what they created down here.

"It's a huge lesson for us, as a club, if we want to become a top-four club.

"The other lesson was, if we get some things a bit more consistent and right, we showed we've got a handy footy team there." 

Brown concedes the Nikorima pass may have snuck past the match officials, including Kiwi ref Henry Perenara, but his side had suffered from similar decisions previously.

"I actually haven't seen it again," he says. "We lost a close one last week and we might have got a touch lucky this week, by the sounds of things."

Next up, the Warriors take on a Sydney Roosters outfit that have won two of the last three championships, but have also been rocked by injury, probably losing star half Luke Keary for the season.

Warrior centre Peta Hiku also picked up a knee injury that threatens to sideline him for several weeks, joining fellow centre Euan Aitken and half Chanel Harris-Tavita in the casualty ward.

Join us at 8:15pm Easter Sunday for live updates of the Warriors v Roosters NRL clash