The play of the year. That's how Canterbury skipper Michael Ennis described Josh Morris' try-saving, match-saving tackle on Shaun Johnson in last night's 16-12 NRL win over New Zealand in Hamilton.
The Warriors were never entitled to win the game but, with their typical fighting comeback, they almost tied it up in the dying minutes, when Johnson showed all his gas in racing to the right-hand corner.
Heroic tackle denies Warriors last-gasp win in Waikato
Josh Morris took down a flying Shaun Johnson with three minutes to go to seal the Bulldogs seventh straight win.
Cue a brilliant desperate leaping tackle from Morris, which put the speedster across the sideline.
"In the end, to be honest, I think it was the play of the year that Josh Morris came up with there – that was something special," a relieved Ennis said.
"I thought he was home and then Josh, just a special player, very special player. That was just pure attitude. And it's probably why he plays at the level that he does, playing in the test a few weeks ago, and no doubt he'll be in the Origin side on Tuesday. Moments like that, when you need someone to do special things, he does it."
After the Warriors opened the scoring, soft handling errors cost them and they were made to defend for long periods, which was their ultimate undoing.
They only completed 27 of their 38 sets (the Dogs were 31 of 38) and were forced to make 355 tackles to 294.
"Against a good side, you can't give them easy opportunities and we did that after half-time without putting any pressure on them," Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said.
The Dogs' big forwards got a roll-on and, when James Graham and Greg Eastwood crossed in the second stanza, the "home" side looked set to comfortably close it out.
However, Ennis said he felt 16-6 was not going to be enough.
"We just stayed in our defensive processes and, fortunately enough, we were able to hang on," he said. "Two times in a month over here, it's really pleasing to come away with two wins. They're a good footy side the Warriors."
The Bulldogs have now won seven on the trot and have opened up a four-point lead at the top of the ladder, with Manly looking to close that tonight.
"It was just a tough, grinding game of footy and we were pleased that we held on," coach Des Hasler said. "There were some aspects of our game that weren't too bright. We played a bit dumb in some areas, we probably put a little bit more pressure on ourselves than we needed to."
But it is the Warriors who will rue lost opportunities.
McFadden felt they lacked polish with their execution – something they had been working pretty hard on – but was still proud of the effort that went in.
"Because with the possession count midway through the second half there, we shouldn't have been that close and we somehow managed to give ourselves a chance to win the game," he said.
"This certainly is not going to take away the momentum of us. We're going to go back to training, train hard. We've got areas to work on but certainly the effort there, you can't question that."
Unfortunately for local Warriors fans, it continues the club's losing streak at Waikato Stadium, having lost both the 2005 and 2006 matches against Parramatta.
But McFadden said there would be no bitterness to the venue and they would love to return, whether it was a home game for them or another away fixture.
"We had a hoodoo at Eden Park last week until we won," he said. "So I guess that'll come up again. But we don't worry about that stuff. It's a great city, we'll definitely come back here because we enjoy playing here."
The Warriors are away to the Gold Coast on Saturday night and it looks as though they will be without second-rower Sione Lousi, after he was helped from the field with a leg injury nine minutes from full-time.
Last year, he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and, while this injury does not look as bad, McFadden was hoping for good news but was not too optimistic.
Centre Konrad Hurrell went off the field for eight minutes for a concussion check but came back fine.