Stephen Kearney has praised his side’s resilience after one of the gutsiest wins in recent Warriors history came with the best part of $2 million of talent in skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and halfback Shaun Johnson watching from New Zealand.
The Warriors overcame a Parramatta fightback to prevail 24-14 at ANZ Stadium on Friday night, with Tuivasa-Sheck a late withdrawal as he awaits the birth of his first child and Johnson sidelined with an ankle injury.
Replacement No.7 Mason Lino also came into the game under an injury cloud after being confined to crutches earlier in the week, while Issac Luke churned out 45 tackles in an 80-minute return from a dislocated shoulder.
In recent years the loss of Johnson alone could rule a line through the Warriors, with just two wins from 17 games without the star playmaker prior to this season.
But even with only 46 percent of possession and back-rower Isaiah Papali’i sin-binned late in the first half, the Warriors reeled in a 14-12 deficit with 18 minutes to go, pleasing Kearney to no end.
“We’ve had a pretty tough couple of weeks in terms of our personnel and not having most of the spine there together, and Roger giving him until the last minute and then him pulling out,” Kearney said.
“So to come here tonight and I thought we opened up pretty well in the first half, and then we had a man in the bin just before halftime.
“They came after us in the second half… and we got behind there but the guys just stuck at it.
“I just thought it was a real show of character from the group tonight. (Parramatta) were a desperate footy team… they were trying to keep their season alive so for the guys to win under the circumstances I thought it was really pleasing.”
The Warriors now enjoy an eight-day turnaround to next week’s bumper clash with fellow 2018 surprise packets South Sydney at Mt. Smart Stadium.
Johnson may well be back on deck next Saturday, with the halfback scheduled to train on Sunday as he eyes a round 12 return.
As the Telstra Premiership rounds the three-month mark the Warriors hold an equal share of the competition lead with the Dragons and Penrith on 16 points, and Kearney will likely have himself a pleasant selection headache to deal with for the Rabbitohs clash.
New Zealand Test centre Gerard Beale made a successful return from an ugly broken leg suffered at last year’s World Cup, defending strongly out wide as a late inclusion for Tuivasa-Sheck.
With the skipper and Johnson likely to return, Beale and Lino may well find themselves out of 17 despite playing key roles in defeating the Eels.