Johnson turns back the clock to sink Dolphins

A dazzling display from Shaun Johnson and a double to Dallin Watene-Zelezniak led the Warriors to a 30-8 win over the Dolphins in Auckland on Saturday.

In his second season back with the Warriors after three years at the Sharks, Johnson turned the clock back the golden days of 2014 when he collected the Golden Boot as the world's best player.

The home side got off to a flyer in the sixth minute when Johnson produced a superb solo try from close range, leaving Dolphins skipper Jesse Bromwich in his wake with slick footwork.

The Warriors threatened to go further ahead in the 11th minute but some desperation defence by Euan Aitken around the legs and Tesi Niu up high denied Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.

A setback for the Warriors in the 13th minute when centre Rocco Berry left the field for a HIA after a head clash with Jarrod Wallace and was unable to return.

Fullback Kodi Nikorima ignited the Dolphins with an intercept and long run before finding Jamayne Isaako but the Warriors scrambled back and a forward pass on the next play snuffed out the opportunity for the visitors.

The Dolphins threatened again shortly after but a knock on by Isaako as he climbed high for a bomb saw the Warriors hold on to their 6-0 lead.

A mistake by Addin Fonua-Blake eight minutes from half-time handed the Dolphins the opportunity to go on the attack and Niu crossed out wide courtesy of a long pass from Nikorima to make it 6-4.

Dolphins debutant Max Plath came up with a forward pass down his own end in the final minute to gift the Warriors a late chance but a double movement by Luke Metcalf kept the margin at two points as the sides went to the break.

The Dolphins lost Milford to the sin bin in the 48th minute for a late shot on Marcelo Montoya and the Warriors looked to have cashed in on the one-man advantage when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak flew into the corner but the try was pulled up for obstruction.

With the game in the balance it was Johnson who blew it open in the 55th minute with his second try of the match courtesy of some dazzling footwork close to the line.

Two minutes later the Warriors raced to an 18-4 lead when Metcalf finished off some good lead-up work by Bayley Sironen and Marata Niukore.

Having been denied earlier by the obstruction call Watene-Zelezniak had his moment on the hour mark when he crossed for his sixth try of the season to blow the scoreline out to 24-4.

Three minutes later the winger had a double after he took an intercept on halfway and raced away to make it 30-4 before Isaako grabbed a late consolation try for the Dolphins.

Match Snapshot

  • Warriors prop Bunty Afoa was placed on report in the 12th minute for a crusher tackle on Euan Aitken.
  • Dolphins forward Jarrod Wallace went on report in the 14th minute for a shoulder charge on Rocco Berry, who left the field for a HIA, which he failed.
  • Edge forward Marata Niukore was at his damaging best for the Warriors with 146 metres from 12 runs and three tackle breaks.
  • Dolphins back-rower Connelly Lemuelu left the field for a HIA in the 43rd minute which he passed.
  • Ray Stone got through a power of defence for the visitors with 55 tackles while Kenny Bromwich came up with 44.
  • Dolphins debutant Max Plath is the son of former Bronco John Plath, a four-time premiership winner at Brisbane under Wayne Bennett.
  • Dolphins five-eighth Anthony Milford was placed on report and sin binned in the 48th minute for a late tackle.
  • Warriors winger Marcelo Montoya left the field for a HIA in the 48th minute which he passed.
  • The Warriors have won four from six in New Zealand this season.
  • Warriors fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad had 17 runs for 178 metres.
  • Dolphins winger Jamayne Isaako has scored five tries in his past three games and 13 for the season.

Plays of the Game
In a tense and tight struggle that produced just five tries, Warriors wizard Shaun Johnson stood tall to get his team across the line. Turning back the clock with some dazzling footwork, Johnson crossed in the sixth minute and 55th minute to notch his first double at the Warriors' home ground since Round 10, 2012 against the Roosters. The 32-year-old finished the day with 18 points from two tries and five goals as well as two line breaks and six tackle breaks.

What they Said
"We'd had heaps of opportunities and we'd been knocking the door down and it took a halfback Shaun to step and show everyone how to put the ball over the line, he'll remind us of that all week. And that was the moment that changed it and we said 'right, OK we finally got our reward, so now we understand that if we stay at it that's what will happen'. Rather than getting frustrated and throwing the toys out of the cot we know that it works in the end if you stay solid. I thought Shaun was unbelievable, he was composed. The try was the icing but there were so many other things about his game that were good up to that moment."
- Warriors coach Andrew Webster


What's Next
The Warriors travel to Canberra for a clash with the Raiders in Round 15 and could potentially have Te Maire Martin and Ed Kosi available for selection.

The Dolphins have a Friday night encounter with the Sea Eagles at 4 Pines Park, the first time the sides have met. Origin hero Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow will be back on deck after being rested from the Warriors game.


Story first published on

Link to original story

Martin Lenehan, NRL Senior Journalist