Raiders still in the hunt for NRL top-four finish after tough win over Warriors

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The Canberra Raiders have survived a testing battle against the Warriors to claim a 26-14 victory and remain in sight of a crucial top-four NRL finish.

Another finals-bound side, the Knights, also triumphed in the penultimate round, posting a convincing 42-18 defeat of St George Illawarra in Newcastle later on Sunday.

The Raiders lost halfback George Williams to concussion early at Canberra Stadium, and were down by eight points when star five-eighth Jack Wighton was sent to the sin-bin during the first half.

Strike second rower John Bateman also sustained an elbow injury in the second half.

But the Raiders — led by two-try hero Semi Valemei and veteran Elliott Whitehead — recovered to cement fifth spot on the ladder, two points behind fourth-placed Parramatta with one match left in the regular season.

With a superior points differential, the Raiders can steal a qualifying final berth should they defeat Cronulla and the Eels get upset by the Wests Tigers next weekend.

The Warriors, who lost captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to a suspected season-ending hamstring injury in the second half, again showed admirable spirit by taking it to the Raiders early but they could not muster a late push.

They look forward to finally flying home to New Zealand after facing Manly next week.

Warriors centre Peta Hiku and counterpart Jarrod Croker traded tries inside a combative opening 15 minutes.

The visitors threatened to run away with the match when Hiku nabbed his second try in the 28th minute, however a 90-metre Valemei try for the Raiders four minutes later proved a critical turning point.

Hudson Young’s try in the shadows of half-time completed a stunning turnaround and a two-point lead to the Raiders at the break, 16-14.

Whitehead was instrumental in the Raiders posting the first points of the second half when he intercepted a Warriors pass to set up Valemei’s second try.

Nick Cotric, who is headed to Canterbury next season, scored the Raiders’ fifth try to ice the win for the hosts.

Knights smash Dragons

The finals-bound Knights heaped more misery on the Dragons in their last home match of the season.

They led 30-6 at half-time, with Kalyn Ponga, Gehamat Shibasaki, Aidan Guerra, Daniel Saifiti and Enari Tuala all scoring tries, while Mason Lino added five conversions.

The sole points for the Dragons in the first half came from a Zac Lomax converted try.

A try to Jacob Saifiti and a second to Tuala after half-time made sure the Knights’ win was never in the doubt, although Corey Norman and Lomax did cross the stripe for converted tries to add respectability to the Dragons’ total.

It was a miserable performance from the Dragons, but Lomax and Cody Ramsey were shining lights.

A Newcastle Knights NRL players slides on his stomach after socring a try against St George Illawarra.A Newcastle Knights NRL players slides on his stomach after socring a try against St George Illawarra.
Aidan Guerra added a try to the Knights’ total in the big win in Newcastle.(AAP: Darren Pateman)

The Knights, who jumped ahead of South Sydney into sixth place on the ladder following the win, are set to play their first finals series since 2013.

They could also host their first home finals game in Newcastle since 2006.

That destiny is now in their own hands, as they sit one point above the Rabbitohs heading into the final round of the minor premiership.

The Knights will face Gold Coast on Friday, needing a win to lock down sixth place.

Should they beat the Titans, the Knights will face Wayne Bennett’s Rabbitohs in the first week of the finals in Newcastle.

Ironically, Bennett was the last man to get the Knights to the finals in 2013.


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