NRL WARRIORS RAIDERS
There was no mercy but plenty of respect shown for a gutsy Warriors side after they ended a challenging week with a 20-6 NRL loss to Canberra on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
Canberra had plenty to celebrate after their four tries to one victory ensured they jumped to a 2-0 season start for just the second time since 2006.
But instead of patting themselves on the back, the Raiders paid tribute to the Warriors in heartwarming scenes soon after the full-time siren at an empty Cbus Super Stadium.
Canberra called over the weary Warriors, quickly forming a circle on the field with their rivals.
Raiders rake Josh Hodgson then saluted the Warriors for their brave call to relocate to Kingscliff, south of the Gold Coast, and continue playing amid the coronavirus pandemic after travel restrictions were placed on New Zealand and Australian borders.
Barely 24 hours earlier the Warriors had agreed to stay in Australia and keep the 2020 NRL competition running despite facing the prospect of being away from their families indefinitely.
"Hodgey grabbed all the boys in. Hodgey just mentioned that it was a massive effort what the Warriors boys are doing," Raiders captain Jarrod Croker said.
"They are leaving their families behind to keep this great game of ours running so we have nothing but respect for those boys ... I am sure the whole country appreciates what they are doing."
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney did not want to use their tough plight as an excuse for the loss that relegated them to a 0-2 season start for the first time in 2016.
"It's been a challenging week obviously," he said.
"But it is not an excuse for today. We did enough but we just didn't capitalise on pressure or momentum due to mistakes even from our senior guys."
Asked how long the Warriors were willing to stick it out at Kingscliff, Kearney said: "We are in it until whatever happens, happens.
"We have to keep checking in on them (players) and making sure that they are doing okay but we will be okay - we are committed to the NRL."
The difficult week and 30-plus degree heat initially looked to have taken its toll on the Warriors as Canberra overcame a scrappy start to race to a 16-0 lead after 48 minutes.
However, the Warriors showed character to stay in the fight and finally caught a break in the 75th minute when Kodi Nikorima was awarded a penalty try after George Williams obstructed the Warriors utility on a kick chase.
It ensured the Warriors avoided becoming the first team since Annandale in 1920 to go scoreless in their first two games of a rugby league season.
Meanwhile, Kearney is sweating on prop Lachlan Burr (concussion) who missed the second half while Canberra prop Sia Soliola was placed on report for a 38th minute for a swinging arm on Adam Blair.