Rugby League

Magic Johnson leads Warriors to down Bulldogs in Sunday thriller

March 26, 2023 4:30 pm

[Source: Sydney Morning Herald]

A Shaun Johnson classic has handed the Warriors their third victory of the season, coming from behind to down the Bulldogs 16-14 in a Sunday afternoon thriller in Auckland.

After leading for the majority of the contest, Cameron Ciraldo’s side fell behind with 15 minutes to play when the veteran playmaker wound back the clock with a superb solo try to secure the two-point victory.

After losing powerhouse lock Tohu Harris to a knee injury early in the second half, it was Warriors forward Jackson Ford who stepped up for the home side, making 41 tackles and denying the Bulldogs a chance to take the lead with a crucial try-saver.

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It was the Dally M leader Jacob Kiraz who silenced the Mt Smart faithful early in the match when he slid into the right corner, finishing off a slick lead-up by Kyle Flanagan and Jake Averillo.

When hooker Reed Mahoney executed his second 40-20 of the season, the Bulldogs had all the momentum running in their attacking end, but an impressive Edward Kosi intercept got the Warriors out of trouble.

After repeated sets gifted the Warriors more opportunity on their opponent’s line, centre Viliame Vailea muscled his way through multiple Bulldogs defenders to reduce the deficit 8-6 just before halftime.

Both teams lost a man early in the second half with forwards Tohu Harris and Fa’amanu Brown both picking up injuries before a controversial loose carry decision handed the visitors an opportunity to extend their lead.

It was Bulldogs flyer Josh Addo-Carr continued his try-scoring hot streak in the 44th minute with a spectacular long-range try. Fullback Hayze Perham caught the Warriors by surprise, finding Addo-Carr out wide on the first tackle who put the burners on and ran 90 metres to put his side in front by eight points.

After a mountain of possession in their attacking zone, persistence finally paid off for the Warriors when winger Marcelo Montoya crashed over in the left corner. Shaun Johnson’s conversion was unsuccessful but a 10-14 score had the Warriors back on the edge of their seats.

Come the 66th minute and Johnson produced the match-winner when he danced around the Dogs defenders from 20m out to put the home side in front for the first time of match 16-14.

With some heroic goal-line defence, the Warriors managed to hold on to their lead to claim their third victory of the season and ensure a top-four position heading into Round 5.