Warriors out to repeat ‘tough’ NRL formula

All eyes will be on Warriors playmaker Shaun Johnson to see if he can stamp his authority a second week in a row, this time in a halves duel with Canberra livewire Blake Austin.

Johnson heads into the Warriors’ NRL clash with the Raiders in Auckland on Saturday after a commanding performance last weekend against Gold Coast.

The Kiwis’ halfback gained repeat sets with his kicking, scored two tries through his speed and step, and landed all six goal attempts.

Five-eighth Austin’s own ability to break open a contest has had him rated the buy of the season and a NSW State of Origin prospect.

In Canberra’s one-point defeat to North Queensland, he grabbed his 10th try of the season.

“There are personal, individual challenges all over the park,” Johnson said.

“I just want to do whatever I can for the team to try to get the win – getting my last plays right, running the footy, defending well. It’s going to be a tough one.”

The Warriors go into the latest round seventh on the table, two points ahead of the 10th-placed Raiders.

Their 36-14 win over Gold Coast featured probably their most complete performance of the season.

They ground down the Titans through control of possession before piling on the points in the second half.

Props Ben Matulino and Jacob Lillyman, the latter backing up from Origin II, led the way by each carting the ball more than 200 metres.

Lillyman will bring up his 200th NRL appearance when he runs out at Mt Smart Stadium.

“We’ve spoken about playing tough and earning it,” Johnson said.

“Against the Titans, it was certainly the right formula for what we need to be doing at the end of the year.”

The return of England fullback Sam Tomkins from a knee injury was a factor, and not just with his deft touches in attack.

“His talk out the back in defence and moving those forwards around and getting them in positions where they need to be is pretty first class,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s goalkicking against the Titans lifted his overall success rate this season, although it’s still below 70 per cent.

He admits he’s frustrated by that part of his game, saying “it’s such an up-and-down thing”.

But he did manage the last word in a bit of banter with former teammate Feleti Mateo, who landed all five of his shots in Manly’s win over the Wests Tigers.

“When I heard that, I thought, I betcha I’m going to hear from this guy and, sure enough, I get a message with a little wink,” Johnson said.

“He goes, ‘five out five, son’. I texted him (after the Titans match) and said, ‘six out of six, my man’.”

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