Manly may have won the game but the major talking point in the clash between the Sea Eagles and the New Zealand Warriors is a season-ending injury to Shaun Johnson. Sent to hospital mid-game to determine the severity, it is a cruel blow for the Warriors side, who have looked good in recent weeks on the back Johnson’s work and creativity.
It was not the Warriors day from the get-go, as Manly continued their recent run of form to climb up the ladder, recording a 32-12 win away from home. Several of their key players stepped up, as well as unsung heroes like Jake Trbojevic and Matt Ballin.
It was attack galore and the Sea Eagles were clinical in theirs, as they executed perfectly and put the Warriors under the pump on several occasions. The win was soured, though, as both sides suffered major injury tolls.
Along with Johnson’s injury, Raymond Faitala-Mariner suffered concussion before returning, Bodene Thompson went off the field with a knee injury, with Manly hit by injuries even harder.
Steve Matai left the field due to concussion, Luke Burgess has a potential season-ending knee injury, Tom Symonds also has a knee injury and Ligi Sao also left the field. The Manly win was made all the more valiant based on that very fact, that they played good parts of the game with no-one on the interchange.
It was doubles to Brett Stewart and Jorge Taufua that helped to seal the win for Manly and the win was a crucial one for them, particularly in light of a recent tumultuous week that spoke of players leaving and the constant talk of coach Geoff Toovey being let go.
Whilst the belief is in the camp for Manly, they have a tough game against Brisbane next week and will likely have to win most of their remaining games to make the finals.
As for the Warriors, the loss was their second consecutive loss of 14 points or more and with the injury to Johnson, many are now wondering where their x-factor will come from.
When talking about it post-game, Warriors coach Andrew McFadden was disappointed and dejected that his key play-maker is out for the year.
“I can’t confirm anything but yeah it’s season-ending,” McFadden said.
“We have got a fair few young guys out there and it was always going to be a challenge [without Johnson].
“Losing Shaun was a blow but we should have been better I feel.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Manly coach Geoff Toovey, who knew that it was the turning point in the game.
“Massive, I think it was a big loss for them,” Toovey said.
“Like anything if you lose any key playmaker in your team, he was a big loss for them.”
The injuries suffered by his side forced his remaining players to dig deep and the effort was one that pleased Toovey.
“It was a fantastic effort, very heroic from the players in the end there,” Toovey said.
“We just ran out of players. Rarely it happens when you lose four players in a game, but it was a physical game and they lost a couple of players as well.
“That’s how tought it was.”
There are other issues for the Warriors, who have only scored two tries in 160 minutes of football in the last two weeks and with what happened, it goes back to the drawing board.
“Yeah there hasn’t been many worse than that for all counts,” McFadden said of his side’s night at Mount Smart Stadium.
“Obviously a disappointing result and scoreline, and with what happened during the game as well hurt us.
“Probably our young guys, maybe they did just go into their shell a bit.
“Maybe it was just too much tonight.
“But we are not going to throw everything out the door, we will regroup and learn from that.
“The opportunity is still the same for us.”
Player of the Game:
3. Jake Trbojevic
2. Jorge Taufua
1. Matt Ballin
Sea Eagles 32 (Jorge Taufua 2, Brett Stewart 2, Jake Trbojevic, Matt Ballin tries; Jamie Lyon 4 goals) def Warriors 12 (Shaun Johnson, Albert Vete tries; Tuimoala Lolohea 2 goals) at Mount Smart Stadium. HT: 6-6 Crowd: 15, 812.