Warriors winger David Fusitu'a scored a hat-trick of tries as Shaun Johnson celebrated his 150th NRL appearance with a five-star performance to spearhead a 34-14 defeat of Manly in Christchurch.
Fusitu'a crossed three times in nine minutes in the second half to move clear of Melbourne winger Josh Addo-Carr as the leading tryscorer in the Telstra Premiership, with 15 tries in 13 matches, while laying on a try for Johnson, who also kicked five goals in a triumphant return from injury.
After an impressive start, things turned sour for Manly when hooker Api Koroisau limped from the field in the 15th minute with a foot injury and Matt Wright, an outside back, was forced to take over the dummy half duties
Led by Johnson, who scored a try and laid on two others for Fusitu'a, the Warriors took control of the match to pile on 34 unanswered points before Brian Kelly crossed for a 72nd minute consolation try for the Sea Eagles.
With fans travelling from all parts of New Zealand for the first NRL match in Christchurch since 2016, some of the near-capacity 17,357 AMI Stadium crowd were still finding their seats when Koroisau dived over from dummy half for the opening try in the fifth minute.
With Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck succumbing to an ankle injury on Friday, Manly kickers Daly Cherry-Evans and Trent Hodkinson targeted Peta Hiku early to catch the replacement fullback out of position.
Match: Sea Eagles v Warriors
Round 14 -
Venue: AMI Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
The well-placed kicks were supported by a good chase but the Sea Eagles let their opponents off the hook by conceding penalties and once the Warriors were able to get good field position they looked dangerous.
Fusitu'a, who had scored 12 tries in as many matches for the Warriors, was denied his 13th after a tap on from Gerard Beale of a Tohu Harris pass travelled forward in the 15th minute.
Beale had himself been bundled into touch near the Manly line just minutes earlier and after repelling their opponents, the Sea Eagles scored the next points through a Hodkinson penalty goal.
From that moment on the game turned as Manly struggled without Koroisau at hooker and the Warriors injected former captain Simon Mannering into the game as second rower Isaiah Papali'i crossed for a powerhouse try in the 24th minute.
Warriors right edge second rower Tohu Harris scored six minutes later in almost identical fashion on the opposite side of the ruck after running into a hole off a delayed pass from five-eighth and captain Blake Green.
The second half was one-way traffic as Fusitu'a, Johnson and Luke took control and Manly had no answer.
Statistically there was little between the teams but the Warriors had far more options in attack and the Sea Eagles left edge defence of centre Kelly and winger Akuila Uate must have felt like they were under siege.
Johnson started the second half tryscoring procession for the Warriors in the 44th minute when he backed up a long range break which began with Fusitu'a pushing off Hodkinson and Kelly before drawing fullback Tom Trbojevic.
Fusitu'a then got the first of his three tries in the 56th minute after Luke ran out of dummy and sent Johnson racing into a hole before passing infield for his winger as Trbojevic came across in cover.
Luke laid on a second try for Fusitu'a in the 63rd minute with a cut-out pass after sweeping to the outside of Johnson like a fullback in a well rehearsed Warriors move.
Fusitu'a scored again on the next set after pouncing on a Johnson grubber kick which was fumbled by Uate on his own line to give the Warriors an unassailable 34-8 lead before Kelly's consolation try eight minutes from fulltime.
News & Notes... It was the first time the Warriors had beaten Manly since 2013, ending a seven-game losing streak against the Sea Eagles... Manly had won seven of their past eight games in New Zealand... Crowd: 17,357... Shaun Johnson is now equal 11th on the Warriors' all time list of games played with Micheal Luck on 150. If Johnson stays fit he will move past Wairangi Koopu (159) by season's end and into the top 10.