Relief – that’s the emotion Warriors coach Andrew McFadden says flooded through him when halfback Shaun Johnson danced his way over the line for a golden-point NRL win against Penrith.
The Warriors leapfrog the defeated Panthers to claim eighth place on the ladder after their 20-16 victory at a rain-soaked Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday and finally claiming a win in extra time at the fourth attempt in five matches.
Johnson shaped to kick a field goal with just a minute of extra time remaining before shimmying past several Panthers defenders to score next to the posts.
Three golden-point losses to the Sharks, Sea Eagles and Raiders in the past four weeks left McFadden’s side reeling, and the Australian coach said an extra-time winner was well overdue.
He commended Johnson’s quick thinking with the clock ticking down.
“We’ve been consistent, we’ve been competing really hard and we’ve been in every game we’ve played in the last two months,”, McFadden said.
“That was a very composed play because (Johnson) knew he wasn’t getting a clean shot away and he knew he had tackles up his sleeve.”
A slow start for both sides was blown open in the 17th minute when Warriors centre David Fusitu’a went up uncontested to claim a Thomas Leuluai cross-field kick and score.
The Auckland-based side dominated the opening 40 minutes with 58 per cent possession, and grabbed a second try before the break when Ken Maumalo slid into the corner.
The Panthers and Warriors scored a try apiece in the first 15 minutes of the second half before a pair of Josh Mansour tries for Penrith took the match into extra time.
Warriors skipper Ryan Hoffman was glad his side didn’t crumble after two earlier failed attempts to snare a golden-point winner.
Increased aggression during extra time was key to turning the tables on their past three golden-point defeats.
“There was no panic there, doing a snapshot that gives the opposition seven tackles and gives them another opportunity,” Hoffman said.
For the Panthers, it was all pain and little gain.
The side drops out of the eight with five matches remaining, but are aided by a relatively simple run-in against teams including the Roosters, Knights and Tigers.
“I thought our guys clearly didn’t have our execution right in the first half but I was really proud of our effort to claw our way back into that game,” Penrith coach Anthony Griffin said.
“We had better momentum and were a lot smarter, applying a lot more pressure than the Warriors, but once it gets to golden point anything can happen.”