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Sharks' Townsend defends NRL star Johnson

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Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend has defended his embattled NRL halves partner Shaun Johnson following their shock loss to Brisbane on Sunday.

Highly-paid Warriors recruit Johnson bore the brunt of criticism as the Sharks third straight loss slid them to eighth on the ladder.

The $800,000-per-season playmaker relinquished goal kicking duties to Townsend last week and was left on the bench in the dying minutes of the 24-22 loss to the Broncos.

Townsend went into bat for the struggling Johnson and said it was only last month that the New Zealander was lighting up the international arena.

"Shaun has had a disrupted season with injury but two weeks ago he was absolutely outstanding for the Kiwis: he scored (two) tries, led them to a great win against Tonga," Townsend told Fox Sports' NRL Tonight.

"He's faced a bit of adversity with injury but Shaun is not to blame for our last three games. Our whole team is taking responsibility.

"I'm a playmaker too and I take responsibility in that area. It's not all Shaun's fault. We all want to take responsibility because we're not playing to our potential."

There have been calls to reunite Townsend and 20-year-old Kyle Flanagan after the duo won four of six games while Johnson was out with a hamstring injury earlier this season.

But Johnson is expected to hold his spot and face Melbourne on Saturday, despite Flanagan finishing the game against Brisbane and booting the only successful conversion.

Townsend conceded their goalkicking - which has cost the Sharks their past three losses - wasn't up to scratch.

"Shaun was previously kicking the two weeks prior and he wasn't striking them that well, so I put my hand up to do the job (against Brisbane) and I take responsibility for what happened there," Townsend said.

"It hurts. I know it hurts the fans and I know a lot of people are talking about it but I can assure everyone out there that no-one is hurting more than the players and myself to not be able to deliver."

© AAP 2019

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