NRL: NZ Warriors season unravels with fourth straight defeat against Sydney Roosters

Four straight NRL defeats may be the least of NZ Warriors' concerns, after the Auckland side lost star half Shaun Johnson to injury during their latest 38-18 loss to Sydney Roosters at Sydney.

The in-form Roosters blitzed their rivals from the start, running in four tries in the opening 12 minutes to put the contest beyond reach of the Warriors.

The visitors rallied after halftime and actually outscored the Sydneysiders during the second half, running in three tries, but were never really in the hunt.

Shaun Johnson leaves the field injured against Roosters.
Shaun Johnson leaves the field injured against Roosters. Photo credit: Photosport

Johnson was injured early, when his shoulder was wrenched by opposite Luke Keary in an awkward tackle, but battled on gamely, trying to spark his team to a comeback. He finally succumbed about 10 minutes from the end and looks unlikely to feature next week.

The game doubled as a celebration for Kiwi hardman Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, celebrating his 300 games for the Roosters.  

Warriors coach Andrew Webster made three changes to the line-up named on Tuesday, with centre Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scratched injured, winger Marcelo Montoya dropped and hooker Wayde Egan relegated to the interchange.

The Warriors stuttered early, when Johnson had a kick charged down by Keary and the Roosters roared onto attack. Fast hands put winger Dominic Young over unopposed in the corner and the visitors were already on the backfoot.

From the kickoff, Young surged over halfway and carried again later in the movement, before prop Lindsay Collins put second-rower Angus Crichton over for the try.

The visitors had the ball briefly, just long enough for winger Ed Kosi to drop a pass, and from the scrum, Young found acres of space down Kosi's flank to score his second. 

Next time down the field, Keary put a deft speculator behind the Warriors defence and Crichton won the race to force for his second.

Roosters fullback James Tedesco had them under pressure with a chip ahead, but centre Rocco Berry retreated fast to force for a dropout. Young soared high to claim the short kickoff, but the Warriors defence held.

Most of the damage was coming down the edge where Kosi and centre Adam Pompey were late replacements for Montoya and Tuivasa-Sheck, with perhaps a lack of understanding and cohesion to blame.

The home side threatened again, when Young dashed down the sideline and kicked infield, but half Sam Walker just failed to gather, with the tryline beckoning. 

By now, Johnson was struggling to stay on the field in considerable discomfort.

The Warriors' first meaningful attack came near the half hour, when second-rower Mitchell Barnett tried to offload on the last tackle near the tryline, but the Roosters recovered the loose pass.

Moments later, prop Addin Fonua-Blake also died with the ball, but when Kosi outmuscled Young for a high kick, Johnson kicked behind the defence, and winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak fumbled his attempt to gather and score. 

Finally, Johnson crossed the tryline - still in agony - but his efforts were ruled out, with second-rower Jackson Ford obstructing on his decoy run.  

Crichton almost had his hattrick, when he chased a high kick on the Warriors goal-line, but winger Joseph Suaalii had knocked on in the midair contest.

After conceding four tries in the opening 12 minutes, the Warriors arrived at halftime only 22-0 down and had held their rivals scoreless for almost half an hour. That ended soon after the restart, when they dropped a pass on the tryline and Walker sent Young haring downfield.  

Shaun Johnson has a kick charged down by Luke Keary.
Shaun Johnson has a kick charged down by Luke Keary. Photo credit: Photosport

To his credit, Watene-Zelezniak chased from the other side of the field to catch the flying Englishman, but from the play-the-ball, Keary kicked laterally for opposite winger Daniel Tupou to score.

They found the scoreboard, when an attacking penalty saw Johnson float a long pass for Kosi to dive over in the corner. Pompey's sideline conversion raised hopes of a miracle comeback.

That was shortlived, before Kiwis centre Joseph Manu put Suaalii into space and Tedesco was available for the final pass to score.

Aided by a series of set restarts and penalties, the Warriors enjoyed a period of attack, with fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad eventually scoring. 

Suaalii had a try disallowed for obstruction in the build-up, but at the other end, the seas parted for Fonua-Blake to score next to the posts. By then, Johnson had finally succumbed to his injury.

With Dylan Walker and Watene-Zelzniak both lying injured upfield, the Roosters had one more try up their sleeve, as Keary kicked ahead and Walker gathering to score.

The Warriors have now gone five games without victory - including their comeback draw against Manly Sea Eagles - and their hopes of breaking that drought now turn to three-time defending champions Penrith Panthers in next week's 'Magic Round' at Brisbane.

They must likely face that challenge without Johnson and hooker Freddy Lussick, who left the field for a concussion check late, while Tuivasa-Sheck's hamstring prognosis is also keenly awaited. 

Sydney Roosters 38 (Young 2, Crichton 2, Tupou, Tedesco, Walker tries; Walker 5 conversions) NZ Warriors 18 (Kosi, Nicoll-Kolkstad, Fonua-Blake tries; Pompey 3 conversions)