With Shaun Johnson launching bombs and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad defusing them the Warriors ran out 24-12 winners over the Bulldogs at Accor Stadium on Friday night.
Playing as well as ever in his 13th season in the NRL, 32-year-old Johnson came up with two try assists, two forced dropouts and 722 kick metres as the Warriors racked up their sixth win of 2023.
"Shaun leads with his voice and he leads with his actions and that's very powerful when a player can do that," Warriors coach Andrew Webster said post-match.
Johnson put his stamp on the game early with two beautifully weighted grubber kicks - the first to earn force a line dropout and the second to set up Josh Curran for a try off the ensuing set. The halfback converted for a 6-0 lead.
A penalty against Warriors hooker Freddy Lussick for a strip gave the Bulldogs their first opportunity and they came close through winger Jacob Kiraz but Marcelo Montoya did enough in cover defence to deny him.
Curran opens the scoring
The Warriors extended their lead in the 26th minute when Dylan Walker put Addin Fonua-Blake into a hole with a sweet short ball and the big man grabbed his fifth try of the season. Johnson converted for a 12-0 lead.
With the Bulldogs threatening late in the half it was Adam Pompey coming up with an intercept to defuse the situation and turn defence into attack for the Warriors, who grabbed their third try through Dallin Watene-Zelezniak from a Johnson cross kick.
An error by Montoya off a bomb gave the Bulldogs an early chance and Matt Burton rolled the ball into the in-goal to earn a repeat set before Harrison Edwards strolled through the middle of the Warriors' ruck to grab his first NRL try.
The Dogs find some spark
Bulldogs fullback Hayze Perham then provided a spark with a long run but a poor play the ball by Corey Waddell handed the ball back to the Warriors and the danger was averted.
With 14 minutes to play the Bulldogs looked to have closed the gap but when Nicoll-Klokstad dropped the ball and Jake Averillo raced away to score b but replays showed Josh Reynolds had stripped the ball illegally.
Warriors youngster Ronald Volkman then put the result beyond doubt when he scored from close range to make it 24-6.
Bulldogs bench player Jayden Okunbor showed plenty of power to score from 10 metres out to pull the margin back to 12 points but that's as close as the blue and whites would get as they slumped to a seventh loss of the season.
Match: Bulldogs v Warriors
Round 11 -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney
- Wayde Egan and Dylan Walker were sent into the game by Warriors coach Andrew Webster in the 22nd minute.
- Bulldogs winger Blake Wilson put an early error behind him to come up with 19 runs and 197 metres in his debut NRL appearance.
- Cameron Ciraldo sent young gun Karl Oloapu into the game in the 25th minute.
- Skipper Tohu Harris was immense in the opening 40 with 128 metres from 15 runs before going on to finish the night with 162 metres.
- Ronald Volkman's late try was his first in the NRL in his fourth career game.
- Bulldogs fullback Hayze Perham clocked up 247 metres from 29 runs.
AFB straight down the middle
- The Warriors have won their past six games against the Bulldogs.
- Warriors prop Addin Fonua-Blake has scored four tries in his past five games.
- Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was superb at the back for the Warriors with 182 run metres, three tackle breaks and a number of brilliant takes under the high ball.
- Bulldogs hooker Reed Mahoney continues to work himself to a standstill in defence with 46 tackles while Harrison Edwards came up with 48.
- The Bulldogs came up with 52 tackle breaks to the Warriors' 31.
Volkman steps his way over
Plays of the Game
Warriors playmaker Shaun Johnson produced a first-half masterclass with the boot, laying on tries for Josh Curran with a grubber in the seventh minute and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in the 35th minute with a pinpoint cross field kick early in the tackle count. Johnson's long kicking game pinned the Bulldogs down their own end and the Warriors muscled up in defence to take complete control at 18-0 at the break. The mercurial No.7 had a whopping 470 kick metres in the first half.
Johnson puts it on a dime again
What They Said
"I thought we were tough tonight. I thought we stuck at it. There were some moments there where we weren't that smart in the second half and we made it hard for ourselves again but we knew they're a proud club, they've been competing, they've been in every contest, so we knew they were going to come back, we spoke about that at half-time. I just thought it was a gritty win and it's a big moment in our year going into a bye. There's some tired boys, we've been on the road for a while, so it's a good moment in our season." - Warriors coach Andrew Webster
Warriors: Round 11
"The three tries we gave up in the first half are just not what we want to be about but it is what we are at the moment. I thought we responded in the second half, we played better in the second half but it was way too late. We can't come in and play like that in the first half and then wait for a spray at half-time and respond in the second half." - Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo
Bulldogs: Round 11
The Bulldogs meet the Titans at Accor Stadium on Sunday afternoon in Round 12 and will welcome back champion winger Josh Addo-Carr. The Warriors have the bye next week before facing the Broncos in Napier in Round 13.