NRL: Late Shaun Johnson try lifts NZ Warriors to victory over Canterbury Bulldogs at Mt Smart

Veteran half Shaun Johnson has sparked NZ Warriors to a come-from-behind 16-14 victory over Canterbury Bulldogs in their first appearance at Mt Smart Stadium this season.

Reeling from a controversial no-try call that lead directly to a Bulldogs try, the Auckland side showed their newfound resilience to stay in the battle and find a way back from 14-6 down early in the second half.

Winger Marcelo Montoya provided the initial response, scoring in the 55th minute to bring his team within range of their rivals, before Johnson, 32, showed some of his old magic, dummying and breaking the last line of defence to score between the posts.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad in action against Bulldog
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad in action against Bulldogs. Photo credit: Photosport

Despite the hint of obstruction on nearby defenders, the try was allowed to stand and Johnson's conversion from in front gave the Warriors their first lead of the game in the 66th minute.

"Super proud," admitted captain Tohu Harris. "We really had to fight our way back into the game.

"The Bulldogs turned up with the intensity we thought they would and really put it to us for most of the game, so I'm really happy we were able to fight back.

"[Johnson] was massive for us today, his kicking game was outstanding again. He's really built into some form and I'm glad he could come up with some clutch plays tonight."

After conceding early tries in their three previous outings this season, the Warriors maintained that worrying trend, allowing Bulldogs winger Jacob Kiraz to score in just the second minute. A few moments later, half Matt Burton slotted a penalty to put the visitors 8-0 ahead.

The hosts stemmed the tide and responded with a try to powerful centre Viliami Vailea, reaching halftime just two points behind.

Soon after the restart, they appeared to take the lead, when centre Adam Pompey surged through the defensive line with the ball in one hand, looking for winger Ed Kosi. The ball bobbled forwards in a tackle, but replays suggested it was stripped by second-rower Viliame Kikau, as he retreated.

The bunker didn't see it that way, ruling Pompey simply lost the ball in a loose carry. From the ensuing scrum near their own goal-line, the Bulldogs found winger Josh Addo-Carr - possibly the NRL's fastest man - and once he beat Kosi in the first few metres, no-one was going to catch him on his 100-metre dash to glory.

Warriors teams of old may have wilted in the face of that setback, but they stuck to their task and slowly gained the upper hand, as their opponents continued their own worrying trend of failing to score in the final 20 minutes of their previous games.

The result boosts the Warriors to their third win in four games, which has them well placed in playoff reckoning early in the season, but the victory may come at a cost.

As players left the field for halftime, Harris remained on the ground, receiving treatment for a knee injury, and while he gamely started the second half with heavy strapping, his presence was only temporary, as he pulled the pin a few minutes later.

"A knee injury," he confirmed. "We'll get it assessed after the game and see the results."

Harris, 31, has missed much of the last two seasons with injuries and his demeanour suggested another stint on the sidelines may be looming.

The Warriors take on Cronulla Sharks at Sydney next Sunday.

Warriors 16 (Vailea, Johnson & Montoya tries; Johnson 2 conversions) Bulldogs 14 (Kiraz & Addo-Carr tries; Burton 2 conversions & penalty)