When the clutch play was desperately needed captain Shaun Johnson provided it to take the Vodafone Warriors into the Downer NRL Auckland Nines quarter-finals at Eden Park today.
With less than a minute to go and the scores locked up at 8-8, Johnson opened up the throttle on the last tackle, stepping and skipping his was past multiple Brisbane defenders from 30 metres out to score another magical try. This one was also one of his most important.
The Vodafone Warriors had gone into their final Hunua Pool match knowing only a win would be good enough to take them through to quarter-finals; in the other match played moments earlier, Canterbury-Bankstown beat previously unbeaten Manly to leave those two sides level on four points.
The Vodafone Warriors opened up well, threatening to score from the opening set only for a Ryan Hoffman grubber to elude debutant Henare Wells as he attempted to force the ball.
The Broncos reacted by working a try down their left side for Jamayne Isaako to lead 4-0.
A quick tap and a big break from Tuimoala Lolohea finished with Wells going over but the try didn't stand, the referee calling Lolohea's transfer forward. The missed opportunity was countered moments later when impressive dummy half Nathaniel Roache stole across for his third try of the tournament to lock it up 4-4.
Turnovers gave the Broncos possession and field position, resulting in their second try to Todd Murphy and giving them an 8-4 halftime lead.
Finally Wells had some try-scoring joy with Johnson creating the opening with a long cut-out ball early in the second nine-minute term. Then the nerves set in. It was 8-8 with most of the half to play, the mini wrestle on.
The Broncos wanted a field goal but turned possession over and finally Johnson made another statement in his much-discussed comeback.
Not only had the Vodafone Warriors made it through but they had finished top of their pool so earning a 3.05pm quarter-final clash against the Piha Pool's second-placed side Canberra.
Vodafone Warriors 15 (Nathaniel Roache, Henare Wells, Shaun Johnson tries; Johnson conversion).
Brisbane 8 (Jamayne Isaako, Todd Murphy tries).
Halftime: 8-4 Broncos.