David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Forward pack led the way - Johnson

Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson praised his team's forwards for laying the foundation for Sunday's 42-0 demolition of the Gold Coast Titans in their final home game of the regular season at Mt Smart Stadium.

Johnson was a leading contributor to the Warriors resurgent performance, after last Sunday's humiliating season-worst 46-12 home defeat to the Sydney Roosters left their season on life support.

The 23-year-old playmaker combined well with halves partner Thomas Leuluai, playing a hand in four tries and using his speed to burn through the line and around the cover defence for a brilliant individual second-half effort, before adding the extras from the sideline to cap an immaculate seven-from-seven goal-kicking display.

Despite his 18-point haul, Johnson believes his team's change in fortune was down to the forward pack's determination to address some areas which had hindered their game-plan in recent weeks.

"We're very pleased that we got out here tonight and delivered as a team," Johnson said.

"I know first-hand the forwards were really disappointed with the platform they laid last week so they came out tonight and did a collective job. It wasn't just one or two of them it was all of them contributing to giving us that front-foot ball and me and Tommy, Sammy [Tomkins] and Nathan [Friend] were able to jump off the back of it. They all ripped in. It was fun to play off the back of."

The submissive nature of last week's loss and the repercussions it had for their finals hopes left the players in no doubts as to what was required to turn things around.

"I don't think too much needed to be said. We're all competitors and we're all men and to get beaten like we did last week in front of our fans, that hurt," Johnson explained.

"It's hard because we've known over this period what we need to do and what it looks like [competition ladder] for us. Just collectively as a group we really did it. There were no individuals out there."

The win keeps alive their hopes of hosting an elimination final and they will be assured of a playoff spot if they can get past the fourth-placed Penrith Panthers in a difficult last-round away clash on Sunday.

With the Warriors sitting in ninth spot locked together on 28-points behind the Cowboys and Broncos, Johnson acknowledged how important yesterday's defensive effort is to their points differential and final standings.

"We're aware of the situation we're in and any points you pick up at this time are going to be crucial. Defence has been something that we've built our season on and that's slipped away over the past couple of weeks. To bounce back like that showed that we as a team put an importance on it."

Being held scoreless in the final 30 minutes by a stubborn Titans outfit, whilst also refusing to concede any points themselves, would hold the Warriors in good stead.

"We got in that arm-wrestle and that's what you want to do at this time of year. We've obviously got a big game coming up next week which is going to be along those lines so we've got to be ready for it. It's an exciting challenge for us. We got over them a couple weeks back so we know what works for us and we know what it looks like so we've just got to get into it."

- NZ Herald

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