The Warriors have won at least half of their first eight games for just the eighth time in their 28-season history. And half of their four 2022 victories must rank among their ugliest – possibly least-deserved – wins ever.
But courtesy of a bit of golden point drama and a brilliant club debut by a five-day Warrior, a controversial 21-20 defeat of Canberra Raiders in Redcliffe was ultimately a bit easier on the eye than the Round 3 crime against rugby league versus Wests Tigers.
All you need to know is Aranui Eagles junior, childhood Warriors fan and ex-Cowboy Daejarn Asi had a blinder 24 hours after coming into the side for a nut-busted Chanel Harris-Tavita, and then Shaun Johnson slotted his second golden point field goal in four weeks after a wildly contentious penalty allowed the surrogate home side to level up the Moreton Daily Stadium rollercoaster in the dying moments.
Matt Lodge stayed down after a high shot in front of the Raiders’ sticks by Corey Horsburgh wasn’t called and very fortuitiously came up with the penalty after a very favourable Bunker call…which should cool the jets of all the ‘the referees/NRL/world is against the Warriors’ conspiracy theorists for a wee while.
A forward-pass mix-up between Tom Starling and Horsburgh in the opening seconds of golden point opened the door again for the Warriors, before Johnson – who had been generally awful for the opening hour of the match – daintily stepped past hapless bloodnut Horsburgh and coolly slotted the 16th field goal of his NRL career (and third last-gasp match-winner in his last 12 first-grade appearances, just quietly).
— NRL (@NRL) April 30, 2022
I’m not sure how to unpack the rest of it, such was the diabolical quality and lack of cohesion from both sides – but particularly the Warriors.
The Warriors seemed to have picked up where they left off at AAMI Park in the first half: lack of concentration, slack defence, poor errors, shabby attitude, dismal discipline.
A Wayde Egan no-look hospital pass in the opening minute set the tone and Matt Timoko breezed through a reorganised, disorganised Warriors right edge for the first try in the sixth.
The Warriors, somehow not conceding any further scoreboard damaged other than a 15th-minute penalty goal, struck back in the 24th minute when Jordan Rapana came up with a goal-line howler and pass-shy Euan Aitken threw a lovely cut-out for Adam Pompey to cross.
Hudson Young responded for the Raiders almost immediately after a struggling Addin Fonua-Blake coughed up the pill after points, but a brilliant kick from Asi at the half-hour mark took a wicked bounce for the returning Viliame Vailea to score and peg it back to 14-12.
However, Jack Wighton humiliated Rocco Berry and Bayley Sironen on his way to the try-line six minutes out from the break to give the Raiders an eight-point advantage as the confidence-sapped rivals headed to the sheds.
The second half was a blur of errors, penalties and general incompetence.
The Warriors finally realised they were a professional sports team with most of them getting paid more than their Prime Minister with 20 minutes to go, though, and got their act together.
Asi, on the back of a (belated) Johnson probe that unsettled the Raiders’ defence, served up a delicious pass for Aitken to pierce through a gap for 20-18.
It’s too easy to read for the Raiders. SJ never takes the line on so they can just drift off him all day. Very worried for our season if this keeps up
— Samuel St. George (@Samewtstgeorge) April 30, 2022
An energised Johnson looked to have put his team in front, only for his try to be overturned by a dumb Ben Murdoch-Masila obstruction run.
Shoddy plays followed and the Green Machine looked set to hold on…until Lodge called the officials’ bluff.
For all his shortcomings – which many seem all too ready to hone in on when we get beaten by 70 and are struggling all-round in the next game – Johnson remains the clutchest guy in the NRL at field goal time other than maybe Daly Cherry-Evans…and he got it done for us again with a sweet strike.
There really isn’t too much to take away from this display other than the two points, Asi’s debut, the realisation that we are going to be way better off in the long run with Johnson in the No.7 even if he’s not playing that well, and some perseverance and resilience that was obviously missing last week.
But the Raiders are a dreadful team with a shambles of a spine that has won only two games – let’s not put the cart before the horse here. It was a bonus two points, and if we’re being honest, if not for SJ’s poise we could easily be 2-6 and calling for Nathan Brown’s head.
Next week is the litmus test. Cronulla has looked borderline premiership material until Friday’s shock loss to Brisbane. The Sharks will be gnashing their teeth. And our wins over Top 8 teams since the start of 2019 could be summed up on a Zig Zag.
But fuck it, I’m never going to waste the opportunity to soak up yet another Shaun Johnson match-winning moment.
Match Highlights – #NRLWarriorsRaiders 🎥
A Shaun Johnson field goal snatched victory for the Warriors in a 21-20 golden point win! pic.twitter.com/6Nus8Wjgl1
— NRL (@NRL) April 30, 2022
Warriors 21 (Adam Pompey, Viliami Vailea, Euan Aitken tries; Reece Walsh 4 goals; Shaun Johnson field goal) defeated Canberra Raiders 20 (Matthew Timoko, Hudson Young, Jack Wighton tries; Brad Schneider 4 goals) at Moreton Daily Stadium in golden point.