NRL: Shaun Johnson inspires NZ Warriors to losing-streak-ending victory over Canterbury Bulldogs

Shaun Johnson has inspired NZ Warriors to a losing-streak-snapping victory, defeating Canterbury Bulldogs 24-12 at Sydney's Accor Stadium.

After three consecutive defeats, the Warriors produced one of their most clinical displays of the season in the first half, taking an 18-0 lead into the break - their biggest lead at any point this year. 

And being outscored in the second spell, the Kiwi side did what they needed to close out their sixth win of the year.

But, while most of the build-up to Friday's encounter was dominanted by talk of refereeing controversey in past wins, the Warriors were largely unaffected by any officials' decisions.

Marcelo Montoya saves a try against the Bulldogs.
Marcelo Montoya saves a try against the Bulldogs. Photo credit: Getty Images

Victory takes the Warriors up to seventh on the NRL ladder for the time being, occupying a spot in the top eight on points differential ahead of Gold Coast Titans, Sydney Roosters and Canberra Raiders.

Depending on other results to come in round 11, the Warriors could move out of the top eight by the end of the weekend, but victory does no harm of the Kiwi side's chances after dropping their last three games. 

Continuing his resurgence under coach Andrew Webster, Johnson led the Warriors' attack with two try assists, to go with a perfect night with the boot, kicking four conversions out of four. 

Captain Tohu Harris led the way in defence with an equal game-high 48 tackles, while winger Marcelo Montoya stood up with a try-saver to deny opposite Jacob Kiraz from scoring. 

In the first half, an inch-perfect kick from Johnson allowed Josh Curran to score the opening try, before Addin Fonua-Blake was sent over by Dylan Walker midway through the first half to double the Warriors' lead.

The try was Fonua-Blake's fifth of the season, taking him level with injured winger Ed Kosi as the Warriors' leading scorer in 2023.

Johnson had the decisive hand in the Warriors' third try, giving the Warriors an 18-0 lead at halftime.

As Adam Pompey threatened to run the length of the field and score after an intercept, a set restart caught the Bulldogs scrambling at the back.

And seizing the initiative, Johnson kicked early in the set, allowing Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to score and send the Kiwi side into the break with a three-try buffer.

To their credit, the Bulldogs started the second-half in fine fettle, and got on the scoreboard when forward Harrison Edwards got the better of the Warriors' defence, and closed the score to 18-6.

But while the Warriors couldn't replicate their attacking flair of the first spell, their defence came to the party, and resisted multiple attempts to breach their tryline.

A piece of fortune from five-eighth Ronald Volkman - whose ricocheted kick landed perfectly to beat Bulldogs fullback Hayze Perham - all but sealed the win, and left the Bulldogs needing three converted tries just to draw level and force golden point.

The try - Volkman's first in the NRL - was reward for the 20-year-old, selected after a series of impressive displays in the reserve-grade New South Wales Cup.

The home side managed a consolation effort through Jayden Okunbor, but it was too little, too late, as the Bulldogs suffered a seventh defeat of the year to languish 15th on the NRL ladder.

The Kiwi side can now return home for a week off thanks to a bye, before a clash against Brisbane Broncos in Napier in round 13, as the NRL's State of Origin period begins.

NZ Warriors 24 (Curran, Fonua-Blake, Watene-Zelezniak, Volkman tries; Johnson 4 conversions)

Canterbury Bulldogs 13 (Edwards, Okunbor tries; Burton 2 conversions)