NRL 2021: NZ Warriors chances of NRL finals mathematically over as Canberra Raiders complete comeback victory

NZ Warriors' chances of reaching the NRL finals are officially over, after a 28-16 defeat to Canberra Raiders at Mackay.

Despite taking a 16-0 lead early in the first half, a Jekyll and Hyde showing from the Warriors saw the Raiders score 28 unanswered points, adding five tries without reply to keep their own season alive.

The loss leaves the Warriors with 18 competition points, meaning they can only finish with 20, should they beat Gold Coast Titans next week.

But the Raiders' win takes them to 22 points, and makes it impossible for the Warriors to pass them, regardless of the results in the final week of the competition.

In the opening seconds of the must-win game, the Warriors opened the scoring within their first set, after Wayde Egan broke through the Raiders' line. 

The hooker drew in the Canberra defence, before finding an unmarked Sean O'Sullivan inside him, with the five-eighth racing away to score the first try of the night.

Midway through the first half, the Warriors doubled their lead in fortunate circumstances. An O'Sullivan kick into the Raiders' in-goal saw a contest between Warriors winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Canberra opposite Bailey Simonsson.

Neither winger could claim the ball, but the oncoming Rocco Berry was on hand to get there first, and score the Warriors' second try of the night.

While Watene-Zelezniak could have counted himself unlucky during the Warriors' second try, things did fall his way for his team's third.

A Chad Townsend bomb was again spilled by the Raiders - Simonsson the culprit again - with Watene-Zelezniak this time capitalising on his opposite's mistake to score another try inside the opening half.

Handling errors inside the Raiders' half cost the Warriors the chance to add more points to their tally in the opening 40 minutes.

The Raiders were able to hit back before the break, as Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad managed to spin out of a Peta Hiku tackle, grounding the ball to at least ensure Canberra would end the half with some points - as the Warriors took a 16-6 advantage as the siren went.

But having scored before halftime, the Raiders got the ball rolling in the second, as Nicoll-Klokstad put Sebastian Kris away for a try, as the Warriors' lead was cut back to just six points.

The Warriors' lead was then gone altogether not long after, as Rapana put Kris away for his second try of the night, levelling scores at 16-all.

Late in the game, and with both sides pushing for victory, the Warriors made the criminal mistake of waiting for the Raiders to attempt a field goal, defending the middle. However, that only left Rapana unmarked out on the left wing, as the Kiwis international left Kodi Nikorima clutching at thin air as he scored under the posts.

Having scored with the first play of the game, the Warriors were left needing to score with the last to keep their ambitions of finals football alive.

Instead though, a spilled bomb from Reece Walsh allowed Hudson Young to rub salt into the Warriors' wounds, adding the Raiders' fifth and final try, and bring the Kiwi side's mathematical chances of finishing in the top eight to an end.

To make matters worse for the Warriors, the trio of Matt Lodge, Marcelo Montoya and Bunty Afoa could all miss next week's season finale against the Titans, all placed on report for tackles made in the defeat.

Halfback Chad Townsend was also forced to leave the field with an injured shoulder, and will have a scan to assess the damage.

Townsend re-joined the Warriors midway through the season from Cronulla Sharks on a short term deal, before he links up with North Queensland Cowboys in 2022.