World’s finest Johns puts Wolves debut top of all-time favourites

The player himself admitted it was one of his all-time favourite highlights so you can only imagine how much the masses embraced it.

When you are as celebrated as Andrew Johns, the list of golden moments is as long as one of his booming kicks.

Whether it be that brilliant last-second play to win the 1997 Grand Final for Newcastle Knights, captaining New South Wales to a 3-0 State of Origin whitewash or pulling on the Green and Gold jersey in any one of his 21 Tests, the magical scrum-half – twice voted the world’s best player – enjoyed a remarkable career.

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However, making his Warrington debut against Super League and World Club champions Leeds Rhinos on this surreal evening ranks high among them and anyone there to witness it was treated to a Johns masterclass.

Any fear the 31-year-old was only along as a publicity stunt – Newcastle allowed their star captain to join on a short-term basis at the end of their Australian season as reward for signing a new deal – was naive.

Johns only got off a plane four days beforehand and did so with a leg injury but effortlessly slotted into their team and, in particular, alongside Lee Briers like he had been there for the last decade.

He created a try for Logan Swann with a sublime break, was involved in two more and kicked six goals from seven attempts before adding a 35-metre drop-goal for good measure.

The sight of the superstar was the last thing Leeds needed having lost their last three matches. After all the pre-match hyperbole, there was no way Johns would be subdued and his flair, telling passes and sheer control saw Warrington defeat Rhinos for the first time in three years and move up to third.

Maybe the noise generated from a frenzied home crowd – “I’ve never experienced an atmosphere like it; they were going crazy” – as they awaited the arrival of, some say, the game’s greatest ever player led to Rob Burrow knocking on the legend’s kick-off allowing Henry Fa’afili to cross inside a minute.

Even Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield seemed unnerved as he sailed the re-start dead to gift Warrington and Johns more ball.

Richard Mathers, Matt Diskin and Marcus Bai responded with tries to bring them back to 18-16 at one stage but then the maestro stepped up with his majestic move for Swann and there was no further rally.

Warrington fans’ only disappointment was the dream did not last much longer. Johns, who retired 18 months later due to a neck injury, scored 10 points as they won at Hull the following week but he was powerless to prevent them exiting in the first round of play-offs, the Airlie Birds gaining swift revenge.