Warriors pip the Panthers
Mon, 11 Jun 2012 10:22p.m.
Shaun Johnson's progression from flashy rookie to bona fide NRL star took another step at a rain-soaked CUA Stadium on Monday night as he guided the Warriors to a 30-16 win over a short-manned Penrith.
Better known for the individual sparks of brilliance which punctuated last season's entry to the NRL, it was Johnson's maturity and composure which came to the fore against a Panthers side which struggled to break free of his grip.
His kicking game handed Manu Vatuvei an early double and gave Penrith winger Etu Uaisele fits all night, leaving the man who groomed him into an NRL No.7 - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary - with little option but to acknowledge his development.
"He's a huge talent obviously, I thought tonight was a pretty mature performance really," said the former Warriors mentor.
While the atrocious conditions dictated his style of play, Johnson conceded he needed to add some stability to his game which took the competition by storm in 2011.
"I can't keep playing those flashy things if i want to progress in the game," Johnson said.
"As a player you always want to keep improving.
"Hopefully tonight's performance would've earnt me a little respect from the boys.
"There wasn't that much chance to do that flashy stuff, but I thought I played direct and really bossed the boys around.
"I certainly feel more responsibility now, it's just natural to grow into the role."
While the final margin would indicate a easy win for the visitors, they were made to work for it after a Panthers side missing its three best players in NSW Origin stars Luke Lewis, Michael Jennings and prop Tim Grant came from 12-0 down to take a 16-12 lead with three tries in eight minutes.
The avalanche was sparked by an 80 metre intercept from winger Josh Mansour, but having got themselves back in the contest, the Panthers shot themselves in the foot shortly after thanks to Luke Walsh's ill-advised decision to run the ball on the last tackle.
It resulted in Lachlan Coote dropping the ball on his own 30 metre line - rookie Konrad Hurrell picking up the scraps and racing away to score and hand the Warriors a lead they would not give up.
"It kind of summed up the second half - we had an opportunity to get to our kick and we didn't and they scored directly off that one," Cleary said.
"It was disappointing in that sense, I thought the boys were hanging in really well."
James Maloney and Kevin Locke added their name to the scoresheet to confirm the win - which moved the Warriors to within two points of the top eight - the only thing souring their night being a high ankle sprain for hooker Alehana Mara.
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