Shaun Johnson delivered a classic performance to secure the Warriors their third win of the season, as they rallied from behind to defeat the Bulldogs 16-14 in an electrifying Sunday afternoon showdown in Auckland.
Although the Bulldogs maintained their lead for most of the game, the tide turned when the experienced playmaker executed a brilliant individual try, putting the Warriors ahead by two points with 15 minutes remaining.
The Warriors suffered a setback when they lost powerful lock Tohu Harris to a knee injury early in the second half, but Jackson Ford stepped up for the team, making 41 tackles and thwarting the Bulldogs with a crucial try-saving maneuver.
Jacob Kiraz, the Dally M leader, stunned the Mt Smart crowd early in the match by scoring in the right corner, following a smooth lead-up by Kyle Flanagan and Jake Averillo.
The Bulldogs seemed poised to capitalize on their momentum after Reed Mahoney’s second 40-20 of the season, but an incredible intercept by Edward Kosi spared the Warriors. Subsequently, Viliame Vailea powered through several Bulldogs defenders to reduce the deficit to 8-6 just before the break.
The second half started with injuries to both teams, as forwards Harris and Fa’amanu Brown left the field.
In the 44th minute, Bulldogs speedster Josh Addo-Carr extended his try-scoring streak with an exceptional long-distance effort. Hayze Perham caught the Warriors off guard, connecting with Addo-Carr, who dashed 90 meters to give his team an eight-point lead.
The Warriors’ relentless offense eventually paid off when Marcelo Montoya scored in the left corner.
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