Johnson's season over as Manly beat Warriors
Warriors star Shaun Johnson suffered a season-ending ankle injury as the Sea Eagles kept their faint finals hopes alive with a brave a 32-12 victory over a lacklustre Warriors side on Saturday night at Mt Smart Stadium.
Doubles to Brett Stewart and Jorge Taufua did much of the damage for Manly, who executed their attacking sets with perfection for the majority of the game.
The win was arguably Manly's best of the year; not only was it on the road to a top-eight side, but they did it with no players remaining on their interchange for the final 25 minutes of the match.
Within the first 40 minutes the visitors lost Steve Matai, Luke Burgess and Ligi Sao to injuries which they wouldn't return from, while on 53 minutes Tom Symonds also left the game for good.
It was a bold statement from Geoff Toovey's men, at the end of a tumultuous week filled with suggestions their coach and a host of experienced players were being pushed out of the club for next year.
It was a nightmare match for the Warriors who look set to be without star halfback Johnson for the rest of the year, after he suffered what appeared to be a serious ankle injury and was taken straight to hospital midway through the first half.
The Kiwi side also lost second-rower Bodene Thompson to a suspected ankle injury.
The visitors started well and were first on the board courtesy of a deft offload from Ligi Sao, who midweek penned a two-year with the Warriors, where he played all of his Holden Cup footy.
Prop Jake Trbojevic was on hand to scoop the ball up and dive over the line for a 6-0 lead after Jamie Lyon converted.
A classic Johnson try just before the half-hour mark had most of the 15,812 fans at Mount Smart Stadium on their feet. However joy would quickly turn to horror when the 2014 Golden Boot stayed down on the ground, appearing in significant pain.
Replays showed Johnson's ankle getting caught under the would-be tackle as he went over the line, exiting the field immediatley and leaving Tuimoala Lolohea to add the extras.
The visitors were twice denied further tries by the video ref in the first half, leaving the score locked at 6-6 going into the sheds.
Manly's start to the second period couldn't have been better, forcing a repeat set before Kieran Foran's long ball put Jorge Taufau over the line for his sixth try in his last four games.
When the hosts made a meal of defusing a driven Daly Cherry-Evans kick on 47 minutes, Brett Stewart went over for another Sea Eagles four pointer.
A well executed left-side move saw Taufau go over for his second of the night – and 50th of his career – as Manly assumed full control of the contest.
Lyon was on target from the sideline and Manly had a 22-6 lead with less than 30 minutes remaining.
With 20 minutes remaing the fatigue factor started to set in, but despite plenty of possession in the attacking half the Warriors proceeded to shoot themselves in the foot with a spate of attacking errors and defensive penalties.
Fullback Stewart put the result beyond doubt 11 minutes from time with his second, before the Warriors hit back in vain through interchange forward Albert Vete.
Vetran Manly hooker Matt Ballin capped the victory with a try three minutes from time, darting from close range to finish the game at 32-12 following Lyon's fourth conversion of the night.
Despite the result cracking the top eight remains a long shot for Manly, who face competition leaders Brisbane next Saturday and probably to win all of their remaining games.
For the Warriors a second-consecutive loss by 14 points or more, coupled with the suspected serious injury to Johnson, puts a large question mark over their finals hopes this season.
Sea Eagles 32 (Jorge Taufua 2, Brett Stewart 2, Jake Trbojevic, Matt Ballin tries; Jamie Lyon 4 goals) def Warriors 12 (Shaun Johnson, Albert Vete tries; Tuimoala Lolohea 2 goals) at Mount Smart Stadium. HT: 6-6 Crowd: 15, 812.