Some things just make sense – and as Shaun Johnson‘s golden-point field goal sailed through the posts against the Cowboys, it was painfully obvious that him being at the Warriors was one of those things.
There was a genuine sense of unease a lot of the time while watching Johnson at the Sharks, because you always felt there was only one club at which he truly belonged.
It was like seeing Glenn Stewart in a Rabbitohs jersey, or Wendell Sailor with a Dragon on his chest. It just didn’t feel right.
So when he got the chance to return to the club that he steered to a grand final all the way back in 2011, most fans were happy to see it.
The 31-year-old was almost lost for words when he spoke afterwards.
“This is really surreal, to be honest with you,” he said.
“It’s just a feeling I can’t really explain. I’ve literally got no words – it’s not just me that I’m representing. My family grew up loving the Warriors, I’ve been supporting them since I was a kid.
“I know I’ve played the game for a little while now but I still have to pinch myself that this is my life and this is what I’m doing.”
And though there had been flashes of brilliance across the first four games, fans waited for a signature moment – and while the old legs might not have the electrifying, touch footy-inspired running game in them anymore, the smarts and the kicking remain.
Though you’d imagine Johnson would have liked to slot the one-pointer on the first, second or third times of asking – twice denied by charge-downs and once by a miss from a pretty easy position.
But Chad Townsend’s shank down the other end shortly after meant that miss wouldn’t matter, and on the run, much like Ryan Papenhuyzen did in round one against Souths, Johnson duly slotted it through.
“Last year, we lost a few games like this,” Addin Fonua-Blake said on Fox League after, hailing his halfback’s calm presence.
“He’s just steering the ship from behind.”
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It capped off a brilliant game that was at times sloppy, and at times frantic.
Kyle Feldt capped off a 90m try for the visitors, while Kodi Nikorima scored possibly the easiest four-pointer you’ll ever see after a defensive mix-up.
“I think we gift-wrapped the game and handed it to the Warriors,” Cowboys coach Todd Payten said.
NRL Highlights: Warriors v Cowboys – Round 5
“There were large parts of the game we were in control but through our poor discipline, which was very similar to last week in different ways, we’re sitting there down on life.”
His counterpart Nathan Brown said his team had “earned” the win in the back end through defensive efforts.
“I thought our bench certainly gave us a lift,” he said.
“A lot of blokes in the second half certainly did a better job around the ruck.”
The next fortnight will provide a stern test for the suddenly resurgent Warriors, who will face the Roosters and Storm.
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