The New Zealand Warriors triumphed over a resilient Cronulla Sharks side 16-12 yesterday at Mt Smart Stadium which keeps their finals bid alive all the while keeping the Sharks in the wooden spoon position.
Before the game kicked off, the Sharks casualty list had grown with Paul Gallen pulling out of the game with a virus and he flew home to make sure he didn't infect his team-mates. His presence and captaining skills were missed once again for the Cronulla outfit with the Warriors once again running out of the blocks and they were the first on the board through centre Ngani Laumape after the Kiwis forced back-to-back dropouts and the early pressure was too much for the struggling Sharks. It was the sixth game in a row the Warriors had scored a try in the first 10 minutes of a game.
The Sharks bounced back though with Tinirau Arona scoring after touching down a kick to score next to the posts. That was Cronulla's one and only real attacking opportunity of the first half with the Warriors dominating time with the ball and with 68 percent of possession, more tries for the home side seemed inevitable. Laumape went in for his second of the game to put the Warriors back into the lead on 24 minutes before Manu Vatuvei extended the lead after the video referee ruled that he had been able to ground a little bit of ball on the chalk after initially looking like he had gone short in his pursuit of the line.
The score going into the sheds was 16-6 in favour of the home side, but the Sharks defence was stern and they had every right to be down by much more heading to the break. The second half got underway with plenty of errors from both teams and approaching the 60th minute of the match, the half time score hadn't changed.
The Sharks were rewarded with 20 to go when Jeff Robson's cross field kick was caught superbly by former Warrior Sosaia Feki and with Gordon converting from the sideline; the Sharks were only four points behind with plenty of time remaining on the clock. The clock gradually ran out on the Sharks with former Shark Townsend missing a penalty goal attempt with two minutes left and the Warriors were home after a scrappy second half performance and failed to add a single point to their half time score in the 2nd period.
This was the Warriors first win against Cronulla in five attempts and was also their fifth victory at Mt Smart this campaign. The Warriors take the two competition points, while the Sharks languish in bottom position. Next week the Auckland-based club travels to Newcastle for a Sunday showdown with the Knights, while the Sharks are off for a gruelling excursion to Melbourne against the Storm on Saturday.