Rampant Raiders get a kick out of McCrone
Trying time ... Blake Ferguson goes over in Canberra’s 42-22 win over the Warriors. Photo: Getty Images
CALL it the ultimate game of two halves by the game's two halves.
The first went to the Warriors' scrappy halfback Pita Godinet - a NSW Cup battler turned mature playmaker for the first 40 minutes at Mt Smart Stadium yesterday.
Raiders power into finals
Reece Robinson goes over. Photo: Getty Images
The second went to Canberra's Josh McCrone, one of the first-grade's top creative threats this year, and a man crucial in his side's march into the finals.
In the end, it would be the sublime efforts of McCrone, and his lieutenants, that would get his side home - with the Raiders scoring 36 unanswered second-half points to claim a convincing victory.
The result hands the Raiders a visit from Cronulla for the first weekend of the NRL play-offs, while the Warriors receive their eighth loss in a row, completing the longest losing streak since the club's formation in 1995.
While McCrone's kicking game was superb, it was the 25-year-old's ability to ignite his back line that was the most impressive aspect of his game. Winger Reece Robinson and centre Blake Ferguson were electric for the Raiders out wide, with both bagging doubles.
The Warriors defence, solid in the first half, was pathetic in the second, and while the wind made things difficult for kickers; it's hard to imagine many other sides capitulating so badly at home.
The victory was the Raiders' fifth win on the trot and gives them a good foundation from which to mount a finals campaign next week.
Coach David Furner said the key to their success came from building on their strong play from week to week. ''We've won some pretty good games of late, we've built on that,'' he said. ''Talk about adversity - [we've] lost key players, maybe the experience from last year there, we've gotten stronger.
''[Injured halfback] Sammy Williams has played more games, Shaun Fensom, Jarrod Croker. [Now] it's about what we take out of the opportunities and obviously the challenges of semi-final football.''
The Warriors, who had veteran Micheal Luck, standoff James Maloney and utility Lewis Brown playing their last game for the club, made the best start. Godinet and Feleti Mateo, replacing the under-performing Maloney and Shaun Johnson in the halves, were on fire in the first half, building a strong platform for their side to attack from.
Manu Vatuvei bagged two tries, while Godinet and prop Ben Matulino nabbed one apiece as the Warriors strung together some of their best football of the year.
While the Raiders held tight, with veteran utility Shaun Berrigan scoring off a McCrone grubber, the home side looked like having the ascendancy for the second spell. From the restart, it was glaringly obvious they wouldn't be.
Caretaker boss Tony Iro said that while talent is there, the Warriors have grown ''soft''.
''This side's got the potential to be a really good footy team,'' he said. ''Usually you just bash some hardness into them [to fix it] … they're in for a tough pre-season.''