Warriors v Bulldogs: Five Key Points
Luke's injury blow, the Bulldogs' attacking woes, Johnson's controlled performance and Gavet turns up the aggression. Key points from the Warriors' victory over the Dogs Mt Smart Stadium.
Johnson in control at home
Not even the absence of Kieran Foran could unsettle Shaun Johnson on home turf as he once again showed his affinity for Mt Smart Stadium with a performance brimming with controlled brilliance.
In greasy conditions Johnson showed his right foot was in tune early with a clever chip that sat in the Bulldogs' in-goal to earn a repeat set and in the opening minutes of the second half he dropped the ball onto his boot from 10 metres out and delivered a perfectly weighted grubber for Blake Ayshford to score and open up a 12-point lead.
He would have had his 14th try assist of the season had David Fusitu'a not encroached on the 10-metres on a Marcelo Montoya error but all in all it was exactly the display his side needed to secure a second straight win for just the second time this season.
Points still at a premium for Dogs
The Bulldogs haven't scored 20 points in a game since Round 7 and in difficult conditions on Friday night their attack struggled again to find its fluency.
The return of Josh Reynolds gives them much needed energy and direction but they could only manage a penalty goal in the first 40 minutes and it took the introduction of a former Warrior in Raymond Faitala-Mariner before they finally crossed the stripe in the 55th minute.
It's actually hard to identify where it is going wrong, given the platform the forwards lay and the improved form of Michael Lichaa but they may guilty of little more than over-thinking things.
When they got desperate late in the game they played fast and forward and created opportunities, which is perhaps the blueprint moving forward.
Warriors looking at life without Luke
Just when he was looking like the player again who took Souths to a premiership in 2014 Warriors hooker Issac Luke is looking at an extended stint on the sideline after dislocating his shoulder on Friday night.
In an innocuous looking tackle 33 minutes into the match, Luke rose from the Mt Smart turf clutching at his right shoulder with the Warriors doctor confirming he had suffered a shoulder dislocation, an injury that seems very much in vogue this season.
A handful of Titans and Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford are some of the players that have suffered a similar injury this year with the recovery time usually in the area of six weeks, a big blow to the Warriors' hopes of building momentum.
Continuing on his recent run of good form, Luke troubled the Bulldogs defence early and very nearly came up with a 40/20 before he was replaced by Nathaniel Roache who flourished with his greatest number of minutes so far this season.
Whether he can fill the void left by Luke remains to be seen.
Gavet gives Warriors much-needed mongrel
Every successful team needs that one player the opposition doesn't want to tackle or be tackled by, and James Gavet is that man in 2017 for the Warriors.
The energy he brought from the bench was not only infectious for his teammates but gave Bulldogs players something to be wary of, especially Josh Reynolds who copped a savage – but legal – hit to the kidneys that knocked the stuffing out of him.
He delivered a charge late in the first half that looked like it might finish across the other side of the try-line and a low tackle on James Graham caused the Bulldogs skipper to take stock of the situation.
It's been a checkered start to life in the NRL for the 27-year-old but if he can maintain control of his aggression he will prove to be a great asset in the back-end of the season.
Ken's effort a lesson in 1 per centers
When Ken Maumalo was knocked to the ground midway through the first half he could very easily lay prone and wait to be secured by the Bulldogs defence.
After his team had made a bright start the visitors had worked their way back into the contest and were getting on top before Maumalo took matters into his own hands.
A sharp shift to the left gave him some space to wind up and when he got knocked down he lifted his giant frame off the turf in a millisecond and sprung immediately into action, pushing away from Josh Reynolds a second time and putting a left-foot step on Will Hopoate and out-pace the chasing defence.
It was a 70-metre run that if he'd been even the slightest bit lazy would have ended before it began.