The New Zealand Warriors have produced an upset to finish their season on a high, after downing the Canberra Raiders 24-20 and putting a small dent in the momentum of the 'Green Machine' before the finals.
A sensational Warriors team try in the 68th minute, where nearly every player touched the ball - some twice - and an easy effort for Blake Green through flimsy defence just before full-time saw Stephen Kearney's men turn around their late-season form.
The Warriors had been conceding an average 35 points in defence, but this time they scored 24 in attack to end 2019 with something to smile about.
The loss for Canberra was further soured by a shoulder injury to Michael Oldfield, who left the field after scoring in the corner in the 53rd minute.
The Raiders have finished the regular season in fourth place and will now attempt to do what they achieved in round 22 - defeat Storm in Melbourne in week one of the finals.
Helping them in that task will be the addition of stars John Bateman, Jordan Rapana, Sia Soliola and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, who were rested against the Warriors.
Match: Raiders v Warriors
Round 25 -
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
- LIVE PASS
The other post-match talking point was an alleged eye gouge on Warriors centre Adam Pompey by Raiders back rower Hudson Young.
No penalties were given and Pompey did not react to the incident. But Young missed five games earlier this year for an eye-gouge on Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman.
For the Raiders, they need to rediscover the form that made them a top-four side for much of the season, rather than the uncustomary lapses in defence aiding the Warriors for their ninth win of the year.
The Raiders dodged a bullet early in the game when they were under the pump after a strip, with Blake Ayshford dropping the ball as teammates were queuing up outside him.
But it was Canberra who opened the scoring through an amazing passage of play, after a Jack Wighton grubber appeared to be too strong, only to see Elliott Whitehead bat the ball back with Sebastian Kris on the spot to ground the ball.
The home side were able to make the Warriors pay for a cheap turnover back on halfway, but Jarrod Croker failed to add the extras.
Two minutes later he was gifted another shot at goal, after the Warriors gave away a penalty right in front of the posts. This time the Raiders co-captain made no mistake.
The Warriors submit their entry for try of the year
The Warriors were down a forward with Agnatius Paasi unsteadily coming from the field in the 17th minute after a head clash.
Three penalties in-a-row to the Warriors saw them eventually split the defensive line, with Lachlan Burr diving over to tie up scores 6-6.
Young went agonisingly close to scoring the second try of his career after a blind side run only to pulled up just short of the line. It seemed neither side were able to take control.
Pompey managed to exploit half a gap on the Raiders' right edge as he twisted and crashed over as the Warriors enjoyed a converted try to get into lead with only 10 minutes left before half-time.
Again off the back of a Warriors mistake, Josh Papalii showed why he's one of the best forwards in the NRL, with a damaging run close to the run to shrug off almost all of the Warriors defence to score.
Josh Papalii leaves the Warriors in his wake
Croker's job with the boot was much easier, with his second conversion attempt splitting the upright to make it 12-all with five minutes left to half-time.
However, Josh Hodgson caught the Warriors defence napping right on the siren as he sliced through effortlessly to give the home side a vital four-point lead 16-12 at the break.
Bailey Simonsson lit-up GIO Stadium after the restart with a scything run seeing him surge 50 metres downfield.
However, the ideal chance to extend their lead was squandered when Nick Cotric lost the ball in a tackle just 10 metres out from the Warriors line.
Shifting the ball to their right, Michael Oldfield showed his speed down the wing to outstrip the cover defence and score in the corner. But he immediately grabbed his right shoulder as the trainer came on to assist.
Green gets the Warriors into the lead
Taane Milne scored untouched after a high kick in the 66th minute only for the video referee to rule Wighton was taken out of the play as the home side breathed a side of relief.
However, that soon was taken away when an incredible team-try seeing the ball travel from sideline to sideline before Roger Tuivasa-Sheck started what he finished to make it 20-18.
The Warriors grabbed the lead after Green cut through effortlessly to score under the posts to give a four-point lead with as many minutes left.