League: Blame me for loss - Shaun Johnson

By Michael Brown

Halfback admits he was at fault as mistakes at key moments cost the Warriors victory.

Shaun Johnson has landed just 14 from 23 kick attempts this season. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Shaun Johnson has landed just 14 from 23 kick attempts this season. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The Warriors desperately wanted to win against the Bulldogs on Sunday for a number of reasons - Shaun Johnson is holding himself responsible for that not happening.

The 23-year-old halfback had a decent all-round game, with some clever touches including one that set up a try for Konrad Hurrell, but cut a dejected figure afterwards because he landed only two of four kicks at goal and didn't take the field goal attempt that might have won the game for the Warriors.

Instead, Bulldogs halfback Trent Hodkinson slotted a field goal less than two minutes from time to hand the visitors a dramatic 21-20 win at Eden Park. Hodkinson also landed all five goalkicks, including one from the right touchline and another which levelled the scores 20-20, and made a telling interception that led to a try.

"Given what has been going on off the field, there was a lot riding on this game so to lose like that really hurts," Johnson said. "It was crucial errors at crucial times that really let us down. We can't close out a game.

A lot of that comes down to me and I'm feeling pretty crap at the moment.

"You're the halfback of a side and you lose like that; I don't think you need to look much further [than me to lay blame]."

There were other areas where the Warriors let themselves down, most notably their high number of errors and poor completion rate, and they weren't helped by playing the entire second half with only two interchange players.

What really rankled Johnson was the fact five-eighth Thomas Leuluai attempted what might have been the winning field goal. Not him.

"That was another reason I'm pissed off. I watched it go by. I didn't step up.

"It was a learning curve, not just that but goalkicking as well. To me, that's why we lost. I have to carry that with me throughout the week and get up for next weekend."

Johnson is still young, and it is often said he's learning how to control games, which he is. But he's played 68 NRL games now, as well as eight tests for the Kiwis, and is not a rookie.

When he's good, he's electric, but Johnson can also drift in and out of games and is searching for more consistency.

His goalkicking had improved considerably from when he first started but he's missing some he should land and has a record of just 14 from 23 this season for 61 per cent - good kickers should be above 70 per cent.

The Warriors are committed to building a team around Johnson and recently re-signed him to a new deal that will keep him at Mt Smart Stadium until 2017.

He has already experienced a lot in his career, including a grand final, the sacking of two coaches and co-owners who have fired barbs at each other in the public domain.

"It was pretty distracting," Johnson said of the last few days. "We stuck tight as a playing group and tried to stay out of it. We let them do all that rubbish talk they were doing and tried to train hard and get ready for this game."

For Johnson, Saturday's game against the Dragons can't come soon enough.

- NZ Herald

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