Sports

The Spinoff Reviews New Zealand #18: Shaun Johnson’s game-winning kick

We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today: Don Rowe reflects on Shaun Johnson’s clutch kick against the Roosters.

It takes a special kind of masochist to devote Sunday after Sunday to seeing the Warriors ritually humiliated at home and abroad. But pleasure and pain are two sides of the same coin, and sometimes that shit is kind of hot. Last night was a good example.

Two days after becoming the first million dollar man in New Zealand league, Shaun Johnson had something of a mercurial game against the Roosters. SJ played a passable first half, including a one-on-one strip that resulted in Daniel Tupou hitting the bin and young David Fusitu’a scoring. In the second, however, numerous handling errors, blown overlaps and a disastrous intercept put the Warriors firmly under the pump. It seemed all too familiar.

After several repeat sets inside the Warriors 20, and two failed attempts at goal, the Roosters were able to slot a dropkick in the final five minutes of the match. With only a few minutes to play they were back on attack once again. Down 13-12, the Warriors just couldn’t get a hand on the ball.

Things were looking grim. Until they weren’t.

Oh yes.

SJ, that beautiful man, that golden goose from the Hibiscus Coast, was redeemed. A Mitchell Pearce kick drifted towards touch, interceptor Shaun Kenny-Dowell flicked the pill back in field to absolutely nobody, Johnson scooped it up, ran most of the field and the game was back on. Kind of.

Just outside the Roosters 20, the Warriors milled back and forward aimlessly, doing that weird league thing when everyone kind of stands around and watches the guy with the ball do sidesteps. But then a gift was offered courtesy of Pearce, once again, and delivered by holy whistle-bearer Ashley Klein, who ruled an offside.

With 20 seconds to go SJ lined up the kick. He was a man alone, his golden boot laced with the hopes and dreams of the lunatics standing at Mt Smart Stadium in the rain. My dad sat rigid on the couch in Hamilton, twitching and borderline catatonic. Mitchell Pearce stood in-goal, probably feeling like a right dick.

And then – a perfect stroke. Warriors 14, Roosters 13.

Sweet release. Thank God.

See you all next week.

– Don Rowe

Verdict: Sweet ecstatic release for the fans, and a considerably better Monday for SJ than it could have been.

Good or bad: Good. Very good.

The Spinoff Longform Fund is dedicated to facilitating investigative journalism. Our focus is on supporting in-depth reporting on important New Zealand stories. Your donation will help us sustain this most resource-intensive form of journalism, ensuring that the most complex and important stories still get told.