The Warriors ended their horror season in familiar style today, coughing up another commanding lead to be chased down by the Raiders in Auckland.
The 42-22 defeat gave this Warriors side the embarrassing honour of being holders of the club’s worst run of losses with eight consecutive defeats.
And this was as damning as any with a 22-6 halftime lead surrendered in staggering fashion.
As good as the Warriors looked attacking in the first half, they were a defensive disaster in the second spell, coughing up six unanswered tries.
They finish the season in 14th place with just the Panthers and Eels below them.
It was a shocking way to farewell stars Micheal Luck, James Maloney and Lewis Brown who leave a club in disarray.
The result will have ended any claims Tony Iro’s might have had to the top coaching job next year.
Handed the caretaker’s role after Brian McClennan was sacked two weeks ago, Iro has now overseen a thrashing from the Dragon’s and a capitulation against the Raiders – results that have been all too familiar over the last two months.
For a while Iro’s radical revamp of the Warriors side looked like paying dividends.
A strong start saw them regain some much needed confidence on attack and four tries resulted.
But the way they folded in the second spell was absolutely awful.
They were up against a hot Raiders side which was coming into the match on a four-game winning streak and having won seven of their last nine.
The Raiders were already assured of a playoffs berth by the time they arrived in Auckland with other results going their way and assuring them of at least eighth place.
But victory could lift them as high as sixth and their hot form will make them a danger to any team in the playoffs.
The Warriors now have to come up with a coach to turn this shambles around.
The Warriors dominated the opening phases and got reward with an overlap try to Manu Vatuvei after Matulino had forced an overlap on halfway and Pita Godinet provided some nifty footwork closer to the line.
But they were just as quickly guilty of a lack of concentration at the other end with one of their former players, Shaun Berrigan, gathering a close-range kick for a try next to the posts.
Matulino showed he’s more than just a tackle and metre man, as he ran off a blind pass from Elijah Taylor to slip two defenders and score as the Warriors retook the lead 12-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Vatuvei got his second, starting and finishing an attacking movement that swept most of the field.
There was time for another try before the break with Godinet getting the deserved touchdown with his elusive footwork bamboozling the Raiders.
The Warriors led 22-6 at halftime and the big question was could they hang on to see out a win after throwing away so many leads in the last few weeks?
It looked ominous when Shaun Fensom waltzed past a lazy tackle from Russell Packer and crashed over in the clutches of two other Warriors for a try between the posts to get the visitor back into the game just five minutes after the restart.
Ben Henry was guilty of a weak tackle as well as Reece Robinson popped up on his opposite wing to score far too easily.
The Raiders struck quickly on the other side with Sandor Earl beating Vatuvei to a bomb and cleverly offloading for Blake Ferguson to squeeze his way over. Jarrod Crocker kept up his perfect goalkicking afternoon with a sideline conversion to have the Raiders in front for the first time 24-22.
Ferguson struck again from the kickoff with a brilliant finish and that looked to be the Warriors dusted.
Crocket kicked a penalty give the Raiders some breathing space with nine minutes left.
They didn’t need it with Robinson dancing away from some weak defence to to add more insult to the Warriors.
In stark contrast, the Junior Warriors finished second on the regular season table with a 26-12 win over Canberra today and face a rematch against the Raiders in the playoffs next week.
Warriors 22: Manu Vatuvei 2, Ben Matulino, Pita Godinet tries; Ben Henry 2 goals, James Maloney goal.
Raiders 42: Shaun Berrigan, Shaun Fensom, Reece Robinson 2, Blake Ferguson 2, Josh Papalii tries; Jarrod Crocker 7 goals.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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