Shaun Johnson, who many argue has the same magic as Benji Marshall, was at his clinical best as the New Zealand Warriors scored a dominating win against the Canberra Raiders at Mt Smart Stadium on June 27.
The two teams have met twice this season, with the Warriors emerging victors in both.
The intensity of play from the home team was commendable, considering that the Canberra Raiders has one of the most dominating attacks in the tournament, having scored more tries than any other team this year.
The game saw Bodene Thompson reach his 100-game milestone. He made most of the special outing by scoring the first try very early to get the scoreboard ticking.
Following his try, the Raiders counterattacked promptly, capitalising on a ball-handling error by an otherwise brilliant Johnson.
Johnson made up on the blunder by finding the score line soon after, and in the process ensuring a 14-8 lead for the Warrior at half-time.
The second half saw a more dominating performance by the Warriors.
The brilliant Number 7 Johnson looked in super touch and seemed to bring out his best against the Raiders. In a space of five minutes, he capitalised on the Warriors’ dominance with two magical tries.
That changed the course of the game in the hosts’ favour.
Canberra’s weakness on the left edge was blatantly exposed with four of the Warriors’ five tries coming down that flank. The Raiders managed only four tackles in the Warriors’ 20-metre danger zone.
The Warriors’ tries in their 30-8 demolition was sealed by a final spectacular try by ‘The Beast’ and crowd favourite Manu Vatuvai.
It was pleasing to see the Warriors shut the door on the opposition after gaining a decent lead (often their weakness). In the end, they deserved the win, their fifth in seven games.
In the process they climbed to the fifth position with 10 rounds to go.
There was great support from a crowd of 13,000 on a chilly Saturday night, re-affirming the strong support base that the Warriors command in Auckland.
The atmosphere of Mt Smart stadium, the passion of the fans and the general feel-good factor of the Warriors at their home ground proved it was a great venue.
This Stadium has not received the best of attention since its original use to host Commonwealth Games in 1974. It has in fact been dogged by speculation over the last few years. We hope that this would experience a grand revival.
The Scoreboard: Warriors 30 (T Lolohea 2, B Thompson, S Johnson, M Vatuvei tries; S Johnson 5 goals) Raiders 8 (J Wighton try; J Croker 2 goals). Halftime Score: 14-6