After three performances in the month of June that were more than adequate, Shaun Johnson lost some of his lustre as it faded into the gloom of a damp and despondent Auckland evening.
Despite, at times, the young halfback being sucked into a spiral of indecision, the New Zealand Warriors-after four consecutive losses- managed to get back into the winning groove with a 22-6 victory over the Gold Coast Titans.
It was a struggle at times for the home team. Not only that, but Johnson, in particular during the first half, scratched around trying to find his way.
At a loss, he was, to know where to go. All too often he would crab across field looking for that elusive gap in the opposition defence, but when it didn’t appear he mostly couldn’t find another gear. He would take the tackle, go to ground, with the play breaking down.
His team suffered for it.
In his head, he was intent on making a break with every touch of the ball he had. He would be better served to slow down and bide his time. Sit back, pass for the majority of the game. Soon enough he’ll have it on a dime. Let others test the line. With less pressure on him, in his own mind, he may just start to see what is in front of him more clearly. Then when that opening does come his way, he’ll stand more than a little chance to secure the opportunity to put his team in a more dominant position.
Alas, his night, it was not to be.
Eventually his Coach, Ivan Cleary, lost patience, hooking him in the seventieth minute and replaced him with Lance Hohaia for the remainder of the match.
If Johnson was a little hit and miss on the night, the same could be said for the team overall. They did enough to beat an ordinary Titans outfit, but as sure as they had their good times, the bad happened along in equal measure too.
The first twenty minutes were played as if the locals were on a ten match winning streak such was the confidence with which they threw the ball around. The Titan’s right side defence was a favourite outlet for the likes of Feleti Mateo and Manu Vatuvei to vent their attacking wares. Time and again they spied space to be had. And they finished things off nicely, too. Tries to Shaun Berrigan and Bill Tupou had the Warriors 10-0 ahead.
Life was looking good.
Until, that is, they invited a slumber into the party. Errors crept in as their intensity nodded off. Dropped ball, penalties given away...it wasn’t all that pretty.
The Titans closed the gap with a converted try, but in general, if the Warriors were ordinary at times, the visitors were able to see their ordinariness and raise them a good helping of mediocrity.
But once again it was a half of two halves. The good, as in the first half, came initially. Tries to Simon Mannering and Vatuvei put the Warriors out of reach, from their foe.
Then, it was back to sleep.
Luckily for the Warriors they were not faced with a more potent opposition. If they had, the result would have been far from satisfactory.
That said, a win is a win and they are at least heading north.
And Kevin Locke continues to scintillate at fullback. With him in the side, the Warriors are better equipped to deal with the attacking rigours of NRL football. Not only is he capable of busting the tackle, but his support play adds another dimension to this side.
Locke must search out the offloading Mateo as often as is possible and strike up a lasting relationship.
If he can achieve this then it will be for the betterment of a team in with a decent show of attaining finals footballing action.