Canberra coach Ricky Stuart says just two basic errors just after halftime led to his side’s downfall in their 18-6 NRL loss to the Warriors at GIO Stadium.
Locked at 6-all at the break on Sunday, Raiders forward Paul Vaughan dropped a simple pass from the kick-off to gift the Warriors prime real estate, which they immediately converted into six points through a maiden try to Solomone Kata.
Another mistake minutes later gave the Warriors another solid crack and they soon scored through Ryan Hoffman (172m, 24 tackles), and the opening of the floodgates beckoned.
The New Zealanders had put on 50-plus points against the Raiders in their past three outings, but this time Canberra held strong to put on a performance Stuart aptly described as an “arm wrestle”.
“We’re all disappointed with the loss, but I’ll never be disappointed with their attitude and desire,” Stuart said.
“We were exactly where we wanted to be at halftime.
“But two fundamental errors in the first five minutes of the second half loses the game. And that’s the competition we’re in.”
Stuart backed impressive young forward Vaughan to bounce back from the crucial mistake.
“You probably won’t see him make it again this year,” Stuart said.
Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei continued his strong form against the Raiders by notching up his 13th try against them in six games when he opened the scoring in the 27th minute.
And while the win gets the ball rolling on the Warriors’ 2015 campaign, there are concerns aplenty for them in the week ahead.
Captain Simon Mannering was put on report for a high tackle on Raiders winger Sisa Waqa midway through the first half.
Golden Boot holder Shaun Johnson also played through obvious discomfort after hurting his wrist in the 22nd minute, and fullback Sam Tomkins twisted his ankle in the second half.
“Shaun was certainly in a bit of pain, but I think he’ll be OK,” he said.
“Hopefully, they can back up next week.”
Meanwhile, Raiders winger Jeremy Hawkins (dangerous tackle) and forward Luke Bateman (crusher tackle) were placed on report.
The first half was full of brilliant end-to-end footy, but both sides were guilty of impatience in good field position to enter the break at 6-all.
“The ball was in play for a good 10 to 15 minutes in the first half and both sides were fatigued,” Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said.
“To come out on top of those little exchanges is really important for us.
“There’s a perception around that we can’t play the full 80 minutes. But it was a tough win tonight.”
New winger Sisa Waqa has so far proved a great buy for the Raiders, getting them back to level pegging with some brilliant aerial skills from a Mitch Cornish kick.