A drama-packed match ended in a 22-21 golden point win for Manly over a shattered Vodafone Warriors side in today's last home game of the season at Mount Smart Stadium.
The Vodafone Warriors hung in grimly in a sensational contest, grabbing a 21-14 lead with seven minutes to play only for the Sea Eagles to draw level through a converted Tom Trbojevic try and a Daly Cherry-Evans field goal.
First Johnson and then Cherry-Evans missed one-point opportunities in the dying stages so it was off to extra time.
And so in the final moments of the first five-minute period it was Cherry-Evans who broke the Vodafone Warriors' hearts again.
It was a replay of his killing blow in Perth last year. On that occasion he propped onto his left foot to win the match 15-14 in extra time.
Now he did the same again. Blocked off on his right he slid across to his left, opened up enough room and pierced the posts with a low one-pointer. Shattering was the only reaction for Vodafone Warriors players, staff and supporters.
On a day which had been devoted to acknowledging the club's members, the Vodafone Warriors were on a mission to reward them with a good showing in their last home game of the season. Manly, on the other hand, was desperate to turn around recent indifferent form to protect its tenuous position inside the top eight.
The early running went the Sea Eagles' way.
In the ninth minute, they had a grand opportunity to snare first points.
Playing with a potent breeze booming in from the northerly quarter, a superb Blake Green 40-20 on the second tackle had the Sea Eagles aiming their attack to their left. Fullback Trbojevic was put into a hole and was seemingly try-bound but desperate defence rounded him up and forced the ball loose.
Minutes later Green nailed another 40-20, this time on the left touchline and it produced points, loose forward Jake Trbojevic over in the 13th minute with Matt Wright converting for a 6-0 lead.
When the Sea Eagles kicked early once more, the Vodafone Warriors were under more heat but battled their way out of their end.
Working upwind, the Vodafone Warriors were being denied any real chance to play some football in Manly's red zone.
At last there was an opening on the back of the Sea Eagles turning the ball over inside their 20.
The Vodafone Warriors set up well to their right, lovely hands from Kieran Foran, Johnson, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Blake Ayshford creating space for the athletic David Fusitu'a to put the ball down one-handed in the corner. Issac Luke, kicking across the wind, couldn't convert but at 4-8 after 28 minutes the Vodafone Warriors had a foothold.
A last tackle Johnson kick was slightly deflected by Apisai Korisau as it went dead to force a goal-line dropout.
Bringing it back, the Vodafone Warriors won another repeat set from a penalty, Johnson pushed through a wonderful grubber and Fusitu'a flashed through planting the ball brilliantly with his left hand. Luke couldn't judge the wind from the handy enough angle with the conversion leaving the contest all even at 8-8.
The double had Fusitu'a up to 12 tries for the season.
The opening phase of the second half was all-Manly.
On the back of a Vodafone Warriors error, the Sea Eagles won a penalty in the 44th minute, took the two and went ahead 10-8.
From the restart they broke through down the Vodafone Warriors' right edge, Tom Trbojevic knocked down but bouncing back onto his feet and angling a deft kick wide to the right where centre Dylan Walker collected the bouncing ball to go over wide out. No conversion and it was 14-8.
Almost immediately the Vodafone Warriors responded.
Johnson pumped up a towering bomb, Fusitu'a racing through to rise and snare it before off loading to Ayshford who ran around to put the ball down between the posts (the cue for his try-scoring signature tune 'Sweet Caroline' to boom out over the PA). Luke converted and it was 14-14 after 51 minutes.
Errors and who could best defend them was now the key.
The Vodafone Warriors turned the ball over in their own half once and defended it. A few minutes later they lost it again, faced a repeat set on defence from a goal-line dropout and turned Manly away again.
The Vodafone Warriors lost Luke, off for a head knock and Fusitu'a collected a boot to the head as he cleaned up a kick but he was able to stay on. Ata Hingano was thrown into the battle at dummy half while Johnson appeared to be favouring a leg.
The Vodafone Warriors were digging in, staying in the wrestle and then the break came in the 70th minute.
This time they set up to the left, Mannering, Foran and Tuivasa-Sheck all combining to send Ken Maumalo in at the corner. With Luke in the bin, Johnson had the wide-angled conversion and nailed it magnificently.
Ahead 20-14, the Vodafone Warriors worked their way back downfield again, Johnson kicking deep and Wright losing possession on his goal-line. From the scrum they created a field goal play for Johnson, 21-14 after 73 minutes.
Manly turned on the tricks, the brilliant Tom Trbojevic making and finishing a clever try beside the posts to cut the lead to 21-20 after 76 minutes.
From the restart the Vodafone Warriors kicked the ball out on the full, penalty to Manly on halfway and they tied it up 21-21 with the first of Cherry-Evans' killer field goals.
From the restart Addin Fonua-Blake knocked on on his goal-line, the Vodafone Warriors went for the trigger early for the field goal but Johnson was astray with chasers on him.
The seven-tackle set gave Manly a last shot but Cherry-Evans' effort went wide to the left taking the game into golden point.
Then with the the first period of extra time close to up, Cherry-Evans ruined the night for home team and their supporters.
Afterwards departing players were farewelled on the field including Foran, Ben Matulino, Ryan Hoffman and Charlie Gubb who all played in tonight's contest, their last at Mount Smart Stadium.
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 21 (David Fusitua 2, Blake Ayshford, Ken Maumalo tries; Issac Luke conversion; Shaun Johnson conversion, field goal).
Manly Sea Eagles 22 (Jake Trbojevic, Dylan Walker, Ton Trbojevic tries; Matthew Wright 2 conversions, 2 penalties; Daly Cherry-Evans 2 field goals).
Referees: Gavin Badger and Chris Sutton.
Vodafone Warriors | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c); David Fusitu'a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo; Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson; Ben Matulino, Issac Luke, Sam Lisone; Bunty Afoa, Ryan Hoffman; Simon Mannering. Interchange: Mafoa'aeata Hingano, Charlie Gubb, Isaiah Papali'i, Jazz Tevaga.