Brilliant Johnson helps Warriors smash hoodoo

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 31/03/2014
Shaun Johnson
MAARTEEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ
LUCK NO 7: Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson was instrumental in Saturday's 42-18 win in Wellington.

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It was lucky number seven in more ways than one for the resurgent Warriors on Saturday night.

The 42-18 rout of the injury-depleted Wests Tigers was the club's first NRL victory in seven visits to Wellington as wing Glen Fisiiahi became the first Warrior to score four tries in a game since Joel Moon in 2009.

Captain Simon Mannering and five-eighth Chad Townsend both won the respect of their peers for fronting despite suffering from a nasty virus.

But the architect of the eight tries to three romp was the star No 7, Shaun Johnson.

The Tigers, who had shot out to an early 12-0 lead in front of 22,512 at Westpac Stadium, lost gun fullback James Tedesco to a head knock early on and were made to pay for a lack of backs cover on their bench.

Johnson tormented the Tigers with his pinpoint kicking game, either forcing repeat sets with his deft grubbers into the in-goal, or forcing errors which led to opportunistic tries.

When he wasn't doing that, he was shifting the ball right to expose the Tigers' makeshift left edge. Johnson's combination with fullback Sam Tomkins should develop into one of the best one-two punches in the NRL.

"The people that showed up really got us over the line and we could really hear them chant for us," Johnson said.

"It's a cool place to come and hopefully we come back again. We just stuck to our gameplan, we didn't panic once and we were able to pick apart their left edge, which had a few injuries."

Johnson's impact with the boot wasn't lost on his forwards, who know they will get a reward if they give their playmaker good field position.

"That's what you want from your halves," said Mannering, who broke Steve Price's record for most games as Warriors captain.

"I thought he [Johnson] showed a lot of patience there and we probably got more repeat sets than we have in any other game for a long time. That showed on the scoreboard."

Added the Warriors' one true Wellington product, prop Ben Matulino: "Repeat sets are pretty much like a try nowadays, with how fast the game is going. We got a couple of repeat sets and us forwards were pretty happy, it gave us a rest and we didn't have to get on D so it was good."

The winning margin was a little flattering to the Warriors, who benefited from the bounce of the ball and some 50-50 video refereeing decisions.

But they have shown promising resilience in their back-to-back wins over the Cowboys and Tigers, recovering to 2-2 ahead of Saturday's visit to the Sharks.

Jerome Ropati's broken jaw - the luckless centre is expected to be out for about 12 weeks - took the edge off celebrations in the Warriors dressing room after the match.

In typical fashion, Mannering played down both the significance of breaking Price's record and the virus that had swept through the camp during the week.

But Matulino shed more light on the hurdles that the Warriors had to overcome.

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"Chaddy [Townsend] was sick on the way over and as soon as we landed in Wellington he got the spew bag out and spewed up. He pulled through today and showed a lot of courage. Simon has been on his sick bed all week and that's just the kind of captain he is. He'll always show up and play through injuries, that's just the kind of captain we need."

Fan favourite Konrad Hurrell is set for an extended run in the centres after he replaced Ropati to good effect, drawing and passing to set Fisiiahi away for three of his tries.

Lock Sione Lousi was placed on report for a dangerous tackle.

- Fairfax Media

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