Sea Eagles 14
Halfback Shaun Johnson celebrated his 150th NRL match in style as he provided the spark for the Warriors to overcome Manly 34-14 in Christchurch tonight.
In his first game back after a month out with an ankle injury, Johnson returned to his running best to score his 62nd career try early in the second-half before helping to create a hattrick for right wing David Fusitu'a.
The Kiwi test No 7 also kicked five goals as the Warriors claimed their first win over the Sea Eagles since 2013 in front of 17,357 fans at AMI Stadium.
Johnson spoke with emotion as he reflected on his milestone match and an impressive all-round team performance.
"It was a big occasion," said Johnson.
"All my family came down and a couple of friends. I'm just so lucky that I can stand here and talk about it. I grew up in Whangaparaoa idolising the Warriors, wanting to play one game for them one day.
"To be able to sit here and talk about 150, it is crazy. You don't set out to play x amount of games but it's a good chance to reflect on what's been done and look forward to what's ahead."
The six-tries-to-two victory was the Warriors' best performance since the round nine win over Wests Tigers, with their forwards muscling up, the halves combining well, and the outside backs all making positive contributions.
Manly shot out to an early 8-0 lead with a try to hooker Apisai Koroisau and two goals to five-eighth Trent Hodkinson, but the Warriors then scored 34 unanswered points with tries to second-rowers Isaiah Papali'i and Tohu Harris giving them a 12-8 halftime lead.
Johnson's try and Fusitu'a's three four-pointers in nine minutes – putting him top of the NRL try scorers list with 15 so far this season - sealed the result early in the last quarter, before Manly centre Brian Kelly barged over for their second with nine minutes remaining.
Coming off last week's bye round the Warriors lacked timing early on with Johnson kicking the ball out on the full after their first set. Back-to-back penalties compounded matters before Koroisau ducked over from dummy-half to open the scoring for the Sea Eagles after four minutes.
The Warriors missed two chances to reply with a forward pass denying Fusitu'a and centre Gerard Beale going over the sideline, with nine penalties in the opening quarter shifting momentum between both sides.
They found their rhythm in the second quarter with former Manly five-eighth Blake Green – filling in as Warriors captain with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck out injured - delivering short passes for Papali'i and Harris to score in almost identical fashion on either side of the posts for a four-point lead after half an hour.
Johnson's skill and speed shone through after halftime when he backed up Fusitu'a to score under the bar after a strong charge from left wing Ken Maumalo helped them off their own line.
Johnson then turned provider with an inside ball giving Fusitu'a his first try, and the second coming off a slick backline move, before a deft grubber resulted in the third.
The result provides the ideal start to the second half of the season and keeps the Stephen Kearney-coached side in fourth spot on the ladder, ahead of next week's away match against the Cowboys in Townsville.
Warriors 34 (David Fusitu'a 3, Isaiah Papali'i, Tohu Harris, Shaun Johnson tries; Johnson 5 cons)
Sea Eagles 14 (Apisai Koroisau, Brian Kelly tries; Trent Hodkinson 2 cons, 1 pen)