NZ Warriors have rebounded in style, defeating Redcliffe Dolphins 30-8 at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart to record their biggest win of 2023 so far.
Two tries apiece from Shaun Johnson and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak saw the Warriors leave the NRL newcomers with no answer, scoring 24 points before the Dolphins could answer.
On top of two tries, Johnson also enjoyed a perfect night with the boot, kicking five goals from five attempts, as well as recording two linebreaks and a linebreak assist, and kicking for 374 metres.
After outlining his desire to stay at the Warriors into 2024 and beyond, Johnson's performance did his future prospects no harm in his bid for a new contract.
The 22-point margin is the Warriors' biggest of the season so far, beating the 14 points difference from defeating North Queensland Cowboys in round three.
In fact, the Warriors' victory sees them go past their 2022 record of six wins in 24 games - with their record now reading seven wins from 13.
Victory also sees the Warriors overtake the Dolphins on the NRL ladder, with the 24-point swing enough to put the Kiwi side ahead on points differential.
In a low-scoring first half, Johnson's boot proved to be the difference between the two sides.
Just five minutes in, Johnson wound back the clock, throwing a dummy on the Warriors' last play, before stepping back inside to beat Kodi Nikorima and score under the posts, converting his own try for a 6-0 lead.
Nikorima, though, had his own back against his former side, taking charge at the end of the first half.
After an intercept try saw him run inside his own half to threaten the Warriors, only for the Dolphins to miss the chance to grab their first points.
But with minutes left in the first period, the Warriors' line was finally breached - as Nikorima threw a cutout pass to the wing of Tesi Niu, who beat Dallin Watene-Zelezniak's attempted intercept to score in the corner.
Jamayne Isaako's missed conversion proved the difference, as the Warriors took a 6-4 lead into the break.
The Warriors' cause was hampered, though, as centre Rocco Berry was forced from the field after a failed concussion test that saw Dolphins forward Jarrod Wallace placed on report.
However, despite the close-fought nature of the first half, the Warriors came out firing in the second.
As Redcliffe lost Anthony Milford to the sin bin, sent off for a high, late shot on Marcelo Montoya, the Warriors pounced with their numerical advantage.
Johnson repeated his first-half effort to dance through the Dolphins' line to score a second, before Bayley Sironen and Marata Niukore combined to put Luke Metcalf away for the rookie to score his first Warriors try in only his second game.
Back to their full complement, the Dolphins still couldn't match the Warriors either.
An overlap on the right wing saw Josh Curran - playing as a makeshift centre after losing Berry - send Watene-Zelezniak over for his first of the night, but it wouldn't be his last.
Inside the final 10 minutes, an ambitious play from the Dolphins on their left opened the door for Watene-Zelezniak's right hand, racing away for another try to put the result beyond any doubt at 30-4.
The Dolphins managed a consolation effort as Jamayne Isaako scored a solo stunner on his wing, but it only delayed the inevitable as the Warriors took their seventh win of the season.
The Kiwi side will look to make it two wins from two next Friday, when they travel to Canberra to face the fifth-placed Raiders.
Warriors 30 (Johnson 2, Metcalf, Watene-Zelezniak 2; Johnson 5 conversions)
Dolphins 8 (Niu, Isaako tries)2023-06-03T07:34:59Z dg43tfdfdgfd