NRL: NZ Warriors learn hard lessons from heartbreaking defeat for victory over Canberra Raiders

Six days after suffering a shocking last-gasp defeat to Melbourne Storm, NZ Warriors found themselves back in familiar territory at Christchurch.

Trailling 10-6 midway through the second half, they had clawed their way back against Canberra Raiders, with tries to five-eighth Luke Metcalf and fullback-turned-centre-turned-fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, to take an eight-point lead with fulltime in sight.

They held the same advantage over the Storm into the final three minutes, before conceding two late tries - the last, a cornerflag miracle from winger Xavier Coates - to let victory slip through their fingers.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Luke Metcalf celebrate a try against Raiders.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Luke Metcalf celebrate a try against Raiders. Photo credit: Getty Images

Captain Tohu Harris admits that bitter memory loomed large, as his Warriors defended their line resolutely in a 18-10 win over the previously unbeaten Raiders.

"I was glad we were able to fight our way back into it over the second half, after they got momentum," he reflected. "Going through last week, we learnt a bit from the last few sets of the game.

"We had to come up with a way of stopping the opposition again, giving them cheap ball and a lot of opportunities, but we managed to hold on this time.

"While there's still a lot of things we can learn from, I thought we took lessons from previous weeks and it got us over the line tonight."

The feeling of relief among the Warriors team and fans is palpable, after the euphoria of their 2023 breakthrough season, the high expectations for the new campaign and two close-but-no-cigar opening losses.

"We've had two weeks when we've played pretty and looked really good at times, but tonight, we didn't probably look as good and got the win," mused coach Andrew Webster. "Sometimes, you have to win ugly and we made it hard for ourselves.

"I'm wrapt for the boys - they dug in there and found a way to get it done. There will be a huge amount of relief and we can move on from here."

Webster credits a couple of key plays that helped change momentum - a couple of penalties that helped ease pressure and some off-the-cuff creativity from winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who deviated from his usual route to the corner and cut infield to put Metcalf through a yawning gap beside the posts.

"We went down there a couple of times and didn't execute how we wanted to," he said. "We probably had people in different spots.

"We said last week, when Dallin comes fishing across like that, someone has to push on that play. That was great by Lukey - they're great tries, when they're off the cuff and people react, and that's when the line is disjointed.

"We had to turn the momentum, someone had to do it and it was really cool."

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart, who usually emerges from defeat with something to quibble about, could count himself unlucky to have two tries disallowed, after the bunker found questionable fault with both.

The Warriors will have a list of injuries to ponder over the next week, with fullback Taine Tuaupiki concussed out of the game and Tuivasa-Sheck dropping back to fullback.

Front-rower Addin Fonua-Blake also struggled through the contest with what looked like a rib injury, while Dylan Walker was a late withdrawal from the interchange. 

They host Newcastle Knights at Go Media Stadium next Sunday.