Magic Johnson leads Warriors to down Bulldogs in Sunday thriller

A Shaun Johnson classic has handed the Warriors their third victory of the season, coming from behind to down the Bulldogs 16-14 in a Sunday afternoon thriller in Auckland.

After leading for the majority of the contest, Cameron Ciraldo's side fell behind with 15 minutes to play when the veteran playmaker wound back the clock with a superb solo try to secure the two-point victory.

After losing powerhouse lock Tohu Harris to a knee injury early in the second half, it was Warriors forward Jackson Ford who stepped up for the home side, making 41 tackles and denying the Bulldogs a chance to take the lead with a crucial try-saver. 

It was the Dally M leader Jacob Kiraz who silenced the Mt Smart faithful early in the match when he slid into the right corner, finishing off a slick lead-up by Kyle Flanagan and Jake Averillo.

When hooker Reed Mahoney executed his second 40-20 of the season, the Bulldogs had all the momentum running in their attacking end, but an impressive Edward Kosi intercept got the Warriors out of trouble. 

After repeated sets gifted the Warriors more opportunity on their opponent's line, centre Viliame Vailea muscled his way through multiple Bulldogs defenders to reduce the deficit 8-6 just before half-time.

Both teams lost a man early in the second half with forwards Harris and Fa'amanu Brown picking up injuries.

Bulldogs flyer Josh Addo-Carr then continued his try scoring hot streak in the 44th minute with a spectacular long-range try. Fullback Hayze Perham caught the Warriors by surprise, finding Addo-Carr out wide on the first tackle, who then put the burners on and ran 90 metres to put his side in front by eight points. 

After a mountain of possession in their attacking zone, persistence finally paid off for the Warriors when winger Marcelo Montoya crashed over in the left corner. Shaun Johnson's conversion was unsuccessful, but a 10-14 score had the Warriors back in the game. 

Come the 66th minute and Johnson produced the match-winner when he danced around the Dogs defenders from 20m out to put the home side in front for the first time.

With some heroic goal-line defence, the Warriors managed to hold on to their lead to claim their third victory of the season and ensure a top-four position heading into Round 5.

Match Snapshot

  • Warriors skipper Tohu Harris (knee) Bulldogs forward Fa'amanu Brown (dislocated elbow) missed almost the entire second half. 
  • With his length-of-the-field try, Australian representative winger Josh Addo-Carr has scored 20 tries in his past 22 games.
  • The Warriors have now conceded the first try in all four of their 2023 matches.
  • Warriors second-rower Marata Niukore made his 100th NRL appearance. The edge-forward was sent for a HIA in the 39th minute of the match which he later passed.
  • Bulldogs prop Max King was immense for the losing side, making 48 tackles and running 124 metres.
  • Andrew Webster will be looking to shore up his side's defence this week with his side making 27 ineffective tackles compared to the Bulldogs' 16.
  • The Bulldogs now haven't beaten the Warriors since 2018.

Play of the game
It was a Shaun Johnson classic which put the home side in front with 13 minutes to play. Throwing it back to his heyday, the veteran playmaker did it all himself in the 66th minute, taking the ball to the line before dummying outside and crashing over the line to score.




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What They Said
"I just said to the boys, I am prouder this week than I have been the last couple of weeks. I thought that 80-minute performance we were looking for, that was much closer to that. The grit they showed over the whole day was outstanding." – Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo.

"Mixed bag really. Really happy with the result, happy with the resilience to dig out of that 8-0 start, certainly not getting those [starts] right at the moment. It's certainly becoming our identity that we don't lose our cool."– Warriors coach Andrew Webster. 

What's Next
The Warriors will be looking to make it three-straight when they fly to Sydney to meet the Sharks at PointsBet Stadium, while the Bulldogs will host the Cowboys in a huge clash at Accor Stadium.




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Kelsey Hogan, NRL Reporter