Johnson sparks Warriors against Titans
A late point-scoring flurry lifted the Warriors to a 27-18 victory over a stubborn Gold Coast side on Saturday night at Mt Smart Stadium.
Two tries inside the final 15 minutes from the home team blew the Titans off the park, in what had up until that point been a grinding and low-scoring affair.
As has so often been the case for the Kiwi club, it was superstar halfback Shaun Johnson who sparked the team to life in the closing minutes, carving his way through the opposing defence to score a 60-metre try which featured a trademark dummy, fend and some dazzling footwork.
Second-rower Bodene Thompson then cut through the line for another try eight minutes from time, with Issac Luke adding his fifth successful kick of the night, before the Warriors survived an attempted comeback from the Titans.
It was the Warriors' fourth win from their last five games, keeping their mid-season revival chugging along nicely as they inch closer to the NRL Telstra Premiership top eight.
The effort was admirable from the Titans, who were forced to play the final 30 minutes of the match with only 15 players, after centre Karl Lawton was stretched off with a suspected broken ankle on debut and interchange forward Ryan Simpkins was ruled out due to a head knock. Lawton was taken straight to hospital after the game.
The Gold Coast were the better team through a first half which finished 10-10, dominating the middle of the field and peppering the Warriors' right edge with high kicks.
With captain and veteran forward Ryan Hoffman a late omission from the side due to a virus, the Warriors' pack struggled and they didn't have a single forward run for more than 50 metres in the opening half.
Long-range efforts opened the scoring for both sides, with Josh Hoffman scooping up a Blake Ayshford grubber to race 90 metres untouched. Ayshford would quickly make amends, picking off a Tyrone Roberts pass to score an 85-metre intercept and tie the game at 6-6.
Left winger Nene Macdonald then gave the Titans the lead once again on 18 minutes, jumping over Tuimoala Lolohea for an unconverted try, before Lolohea finished in the tightest of spaces at the other end make it 10-all.
Both sides traded penalty goals from close range to leave the score tied at 12-12 as the final 20 minutes approached, before a Greg Bird dropped ball and ruck penalty allowed the Warriors to take the lead for the first time in the game, with Luke booting an easy two points.
Tries to Johnson and Thompson looked to have put the result beyond doubt, before rookie half Titans Cameron Cullen weaved his way through for a try on 76 minutes which gave his side a sniff of a comeback.
In the end the Warriors held on, booting a field goal via Johnson to claim a nine-point victory heading into a bye next weekend.
Warriors 27 (Blake Ayshford, Tuimoala Lolohea, Shaun Johnson, Bodene Thompson tries; Issac Luke 5 goals; Shaun Johnson field goal) def. Gold Coast Titans 18 (Josh Hoffman, Nene Macdonald Cameron Cullen try; Tyrone Roberts 3 goals). Half-time: 10-10. Crowd: 15,107. At Mt Smart Stadium.