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Leilua fires Raiders to win over Warriors

NZN 15/04/2017 Steve Zemek

The drums are beating for Joey Leilua in the nation's capital, and it's not just the Viking Clap.

The Canberra centre powerhouse put in a compelling case for a NSW State of Origin call-up with a blockbusting two-try effort in his side's 20-8 NRL win over the Warriors on Saturday night at GIO Stadium.

While it was his centre partner and skipper Jarrod Croker who turned the game with a sublime try-saver on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in the shadows of halftime, Leilua was the chief destroyer.

His tries either side of halftime proved the eventual difference in front of 13,966 fans, as he finished with 125m, seven tackle busts and two linebreaks in Ricky Stuart's side's third victory on the trot.

While NSW coach Laurie Daley has an embarrassment of riches in the three-quarter department, Leilua's name is beginning to be mentioned more often in Blues dispatches.

He received a ringing endorsement from Blues great Steve Roach who said during the Fox Sports broadcast: "You pick guys who Queensland won't want to play against and they won't want to play this guy."

The common knock on Leilua has been that his defence isn't up to the Origin arena and Raiders coach Stuart refuses to be drawn on his detractors.

"I don't listen to those knocks. I just worry about how I coach him," Stuart said.

Stuart praised Leilua for his hunger to go looking for the ball, even if it sometimes meant his side were bent out of shape.

"It's there every week with Joey and Jordan (Rapana). We're very lucky - we've got a very unique style of attacking team," Stuart said.

"We're different to every other side but that's the way we like it. They've got a very healthy appetite to get the football and it's good."

The game seemingly turned when Croker stopped an almost certain Tuivasa-Sheck try three minutes from halftime.

The visitors went into the sheds up 8-6 but Leilua overturned the deficit with 20 minutes on the clock when he steamrolled over some would-be defenders on the back of a Ken Maumalo blunder.

The Raiders never gave up the lead and, when Josh Hodgson burrowed over in the 66th to put the icing on the cake, the Raiders had cemented their reputation as real contenders.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney was left to lament his side's inability to convert their chances in the first half after they were twice denied by the video referees.

"We just didn't give ourselves a good enough opportunity in the second half; we were a little bit unlucky to be in the position we were in at halftime," Kearney said.

"We created some opportunities and, in the second half, we just didn't give ourselves a chance."

Warriors second-rower Bodene Thompson is facing suspension after being put on report for seemingly elbowing Aidan Sezer in the head in a tackle.

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