As seen on https://www.nrl.com
At 32 years of age Shaun Johnson is the first to tell you the days of his dazzling footwork are mostly gone, but on Sunday he wound back the clock with a trademark run to score the match-winning try against the Bulldogs.
In a throwback to the type of plays he built his game around when he burst onto the NRL scene in the early 2010s, Johnson bamboozled the Canterbury-Bankstown defence with a dummy and swerve to score the final try in a 16-14 victory.
Mixed in with that flash of the old was plenty of the new ‘SJ’ too, which so far this year has included being a much-improved defender, and against the Dogs the No.7 had to pull off a string of crucial tackles to help prevent tries.
“I thought he owned the [big] moments today, Shaun. Defensively I thought he was great, he took the moments and he won us the game,” Warriors coach Andrew Webster said.
“Shaun’s toughness is what’s most important for us, the way he’s tackling, the way he handled [Viliame] Kikau today I thought was unbelievable. His marker work to go and chase people, if there’s a loose ball he’s fighting for it.
“His kicking game was the difference, and that try.”
Johnson made 20 tackles without a miss against the Bulldogs and his efforts in Round 4 sum up the improvements the club has made off the ball since Webster took over at the end of last year.
“I feel really confident in my defence, I feel like we are solving a lot collectively, which is helping me individually,” Johnson said.
“I have got an emphasis on my defence. It’s not long ago, I haven’t forgotten it, Round 1, the first try of the season was through my inside shoulder, so I know how quickly it can turn.
While there was plenty to like about the win, which sees the Warriors move to a 3-1 record, another sluggish start which saw them leak eight points in as many minutes to open the game has left Webster with plenty to think about ahead of this week’s trip to face the in-form Sharks.
The Warriors have now given up the first try in all four of their games this season.
“It’s like they all want that to happen so they get a bit of blood in the water or something,” Webster joked.
“If you don’t laugh you cry. It’s killing us. We have got to fix it because you just can’t compete like that.
“I actually don’t know [what to do to fix it]. I have addressed it every week, the boys have addressed it, they’ve got a positive attitude, it’s gonna have to click.”