Tuimoala Lolohea showed there might be life without Shaun Johnson this NRL season, but the Warriors still lost their third straight game, going down 18-14 to the Cronulla Sharks at Mt Smart Stadium.
Lolohea looked assured as he assumed the halfback's jersey for Johnson, whose season ended last weekend when he broke his ankle - and the Warriors began the night well.
They almost immediately felt the benefits of the return of Manu Vatuvei, as the star wing leaped high to bat down a cross-field kick from Chad Townsend, for centre Konrad Hurrell to score in the left corner.
Look back at the match commentary here:
It was a stalemate from there until three minutes before half-time, when the Warriors captain Simon Mannering latched onto a kick into the in-goal, from bench hooker Siliva Havili, to score his first try of the NRL season.
At 10-0 at the break, and dominating possession with 66 percent, as well as a very high 90 percent set completion rate, the home side would have been feeling good in the sheds - but five minutes later the Sharks struck back through young right wing Valentine Holmes, following a midfield bust.
Michael Gordon's sideline conversion went over and suddenly it was 10-6.
Lolohea kicked a penalty three minutes later for a 12-6 advantage.
But Holmes pounced again on the wing as quick hands and a chip kick paid dividends on 55 minutes, the conversion levelling the scores at 12-12.
Then what would have been Cronulla's third try was ruled out for interference in the play, robbing front rower Sam Tagataese of a four-pointer.
With just under 15 minutes to go, Lolohea kicked a clutch penalty to make it 14-12 to the hosts
However the Sharks weren't done yet and centre Ricki Leutele finished off a sweeping move on the left wing on the 70-minute mark, and when Gordon again kicked the conversion over from the sideline, the visitors had an 18-14 lead.
That proved to be the final scoring play of the match, despite Lolohea crossing after Mannering went close with just a minute to go, the video referee ruling Mannering didn't pass the ball backwards but lost it forwards.