A Shaun Johnson virtuoso performance has propelled the Warriors into the semi-finals of the NRL Auckland Nines after the wily halfback orchestrated a 16-8 win over Canberra.
Johnson threw the last pass in two of his side’s three first-half tries as the hometown Warriors looked ominous heading into their semi-final against surprise packets Gold Coast.
The New Zealand No.7 threw a beautiful cut out ball to Jonathan Wright to open the scoring before providing a lovely short ball for Solomone Kata’s second of the day.
The Raiders scored two consolation through Zac Santo and Jordan Rapana but the Warriors were far too good.
Melbourne sent premiers North Queensland tumbling from the tournament with a 14-6 quarter-final win to set up a semi-final against Parramatta, but the win was marred by a knee injury to Storm youngster Cameron Munster.
After suffering a heavy 26-7 loss to South Sydney earlier in their final pool game, Melbourne were good enough to put the Cowboys to the sword.
“It does feel good. We didn’t really have any expectations on us coming into this, we didn’t know what to expect ourselves,” said five-eighth Blake Green, one of the standouts of the tournament.
“We just spoke about competing very hard and there’s a lot of luck involved in Nines sometimes and we’re just riding with it.”
Munster is set to miss the next several weeks with a suspected medial ligament injury but and is expected back for the start of the season proper.
Parramatta pair Semi Radradra and Bevan French continued their dynamic form to propel the Eels into the final four with a 12-4 quarter-final win over Newcastle.
French continued his push for a round one starting spot with a double – taking his tournament tally to four – while Radradra was at his destructive best, crossing for what proved the match-winner.
Knights half Jaelen Feeney was lucky to escape punishment from the match review committee after being sin-binned in the dying moments for tossing the ball at referee Matt Noyen, bouncing it off him.
Gold Coast have proved the surprises of the tournament, beating an injury-ravaged Manly 24-4 in their quarter-final to advance.
Missing Jake Trbojevic, Jamie Buhrer, Nathan Green and Jorge Taufua, Manly coach Trent Barrett was only able to put four players on the bench and his side simply ran out of steam.
* Parramatta v Melbourne
* Warriors v Gold Coast