Shaun Johnson could be out for season with knee injury

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    Shaun Johnson’s NRL season could be over after the halfback suffered a serious knee injury in the Warriors 34-22 loss to Penrith.

    As the Warriors led 22-18 in the 62nd minute, Johnson buckled over chasing an Issac Luke chip-kick and immediately appeared in distress.

    He limped off and could only watch in despair as his side conceded three late tries to a Nathan Cleary-inspired Panthers.

    Warriors coach Stephen Kearney said Johnson’s diagnosis remained unclear, with the playmaker set to undergo scans on Saturday.

    But early indications didn’t look good.

    As the key attacking weapon for both club and country, a season-ending knee injury for Johnson could doom the Warriors’ already slim finals hopes.

    It would also be a huge blow to New Zealand’s World Cup campaign.

    The Warriors now need a minimum of five wins from their remaining seven matches to stand a chance of qualifying for their first finals since 2011.

    Kearney admitted the injury may have affected his side, who collapsed in the final 15 minutes despite having the experience of Kieran Foran, Simon Mannering, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Luke on the field.

    “That possibly played a bit of a part,” he said.

    “But again, regardless of the situation, I think the game was punctuated throughout (with) getting ourselves in the positions, and (then) a couple poor defensive reads.

    “Very similar to the game against the bye (against Manly) – some individuals not getting their jobs done, and you pay a hefty price in this competition.

    “Shaun will get some scans – the early diagnosis is probably not a real good one. We just need to wait until the pictures tell the story.”

    While Johnson’s night ended miserably, Cleary’s couldn’t have gone better.

    In a tale of two halfbacks, the 19-year-old Cleary bagged a hat-trick – two tries coming after Johnson’s absence – and tormented the Warriors with his quick thinking and strong tactical kicking.

    He also bagged two assists.

    Panthers boss Anthony Griffin said Cleary’s performance was outstanding given the absence of Matt Moylan, the loss of stand-in skipper Trent Merrin and a second-half sin-binning for Corey Harawira-Naera.

    “He’s going to be a good player when he grows up. It was just a really mature effort from him,” Griffin said with tongue in cheek.

    Like Johnson, Merrin will undergo scans on his knee injury on Saturday.

    © AAP 2017