NRL: Warriors grind out gutsy season-first win over undefeated Raiders in Christchurch

The Wahs are on the board.

A gritty effort against the top of the table Canberra Raiders has seen NZ Warriors claim their first win of the 2024 NRL season in their maiden 'home' game in Christchurch, closing out an 18-10 victory.

The sold-out and consistently raucous crowd at Apollo Projects Stadium were treated to yet another hard-fought contest between the two sides, as the Warriors washed out the bitter taste of last weekend's heartbreaker against the Storm by protecting an eight-point advantage to break their duck and hand the Raiders their first loss.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck led the way for the Warriors, running for a game-high 201m and scoring what was ultimately the match-sealing try, a spectacular solo effort and his first since his return to the club. 

Wing Dalllin Watene-Zelezniak was at his brilliant best (169m, try assist), while Jackson Ford (176m) and Addin Fonua-Blake (150m) anchored a tireless effort upfront.

Jazz Tevaga made an undeniable impact in his return from injury, while Tom Ale did the same off the bench.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in action.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in action. Photo credit: Getty Images

After the Warriors had missed a chance to take the lead when Jackson Ford was unable to link with Luke Metcalf on a break, they quickly made amends. Shaun Johnson put Fonua-Blake through a gaping hole for his second try of the season and the first of the match after 10 minutes of action.

The Raiders remained firmly in the contest, going very close to scoring through Ethan Strange.  

They had their first try just two minutes later courtesy of a powerful run by NZ Kiwis centre Matthew Timoko, who skipped out of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's tackle and muscle past Marcelo Montoya to finish an impressive individual try.

That sent the teams into the sheds at halftime separated by just two points, with the Warriors clinging to a 6-4 lead.

The Raiders took their first lead of the match 15 minutes into the second stanza, with Nick Cotric running in out wide, benefiting from a poor defensive read by Warriors wing Marcelo Montoya.

But a moment of brilliance from Watene-Zelezniak helped the Warriors turn the tide.

The outstanding wing cut in off the right flank and put Luke Metcalf through a yawning gap to dove over next to the uprights and restore the Warriors' two-point lead with 17 minutes to play. 

A mistake from the restart opened the door for the Warriors to lay on more points, and Tuivasa-Sheck – playing at fullback due to Taine Tuaupiki's HIA absence - accepted the invitation with a sensational solo jaunt, brushing off multiple defenders to claim a vintage RTS try.

The hosts ground out the final 15 minutes, refusing to let the script to play out the way it did at AAMI Park, much to the delight – and relief – of their rabid fans.

The Warriors will try to double their two competition points, when they host Newcastle Knights onm Easter Sunday.