The New Zealand Warriors are just one game away from a dream NRL grand final appearance after their star halfback, Shaun Johnson, returned from a calf injury to inspire a convincing 40-10 semi-final victory over the Newcastle Knights.
Johnson played a pivotal role in the Warriors’ strong start to the match, showcasing his talent and resilience after recovering from injury. The team dominated in all aspects of the game, marking their first home final since 2008 with a memorable win.
This victory sets up a preliminary final showdown against the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, with the winner earning a spot in the NRL grand final. For the Warriors, who have never won a premiership title, this represents a golden opportunity to make history.
This remarkable turnaround comes after a challenging season in 2022 when the Warriors finished second-last on the ladder. However, under the guidance of rookie head coach Andrew Webster, they have transformed into genuine premiership contenders in 2023.
The Knights, who had enjoyed a 10-game winning streak leading up to the semi-finals, saw their Cinderella story come to an end with this defeat.
Shaun Johnson had faced doubts about his fitness leading up to the game due to a calf injury sustained late last month. However, he quickly dispelled any concerns with his stellar performance.
The Warriors got off to a blistering start, scoring impressive tries through Addin Fonua-Blake and Marcelo Montoya, with Johnson orchestrating the attack. By the time the Knights had settled into the game, the Warriors were already ahead 16-0.
Although the Knights managed to score on both sides of halftime to briefly challenge their opponents, the Warriors maintained control. The middle forward unit, led by captain Tohu Harris, rebounded from a previous off-night to secure the win.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s second-half try not only contributed to the victory but also equaled a club record for the most tries in a season. With this resounding win, the Warriors now have their sights set on the grand final, as they aim to create history in the NRL.