Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
The heat was visibly affecting both teams but the Sharks were able to douse any hopes the Warriors had of registering their first win for the year and breaking a losing streak stretching back to last July. The visitors looked lethargic in attack and defence, making just a solitary line break for the match and missing 21 tackles.
First points came quickly for the Sharks, drawing blood just ten minutes in when Todd Carney and Wade Graham were able to put the Sharks into good attacking position. After a moment of confusion on the next play Carney looked outside and found John Morris, the replacement hooker, filling in for the injured Isaac De Gois, running a good line to find the gap between two Warriors defenders and muscling his way over for the opening try.
There was no shortage of opportunities for the Warriors, as first Kevin Locke and then Shaun Johnson nailed long 40/20s to put their team in prime attacking position. On neither occasion could the visitors capitalise - in the first instance losing the ball off the scrum thanks to a wayward pass collected by Luke Lewis. Second time around was a little better, managing to complete a set on the Cronulla line and even drawing a penalty from the back-pedalling defence, but their raid again went pear shaped when Johnson was presented with a shocking pass from dummy half, which he couldn't control.
Errors continued to strike as the Warriors proved to be their own worst enemy, Leuluai and Mannering combining to gift possession back after forcing a rare goal line drop out. A forward pass from Locke five minutes later compounded the problem and when Pita Godinet's grubber ricocheted off the Sharks defence the next set Ricky Leutele took off up-field with all the grace of a rampaging the bull to put the Sharks back on the hunt for more points.
In the oppressive heat when it rained it poured for the home side, three tries in quick succession all but putting the Warriors to bed.
Anthony Tupou kick-started the slaughter with an offload as he was being driven back. Jeff Robson took the line on himself, he found Anthony Tupou and Tupou found a gaping hole in the Warriors defence, dishing up a great ball to Michael Gordon flying through in support to put the Sharks up by 12. From there the Warriors' heads dropped and their tackling became even worse up the middle, as Tupou again created opportunity with a big bust up the middle of the field. From good attacking position Todd Carney directed his troops well, continuously threatening the line and earning the repeat set with a deft grubber into the in goal area. His kicking game was on song once again in the ensuing set, Beau Ryan provided with the simplest of takes to score. The winger had no problems collecting the inch perfect cross field kick, putting his side up 18-0.
The Warriors had their chances but failed to truly threaten throughout the first half, going to the sheds again unable to post a point in the first half, following on from opening 40 ducks against Parramatta and the Roosters.
A seemingly rejuvenated Warriors side looked far removed from the lacklustre performance dished up in the first half, but again defensive lapses took the wind out of their sails early on. Todd Carney was able to put Jayson Bukuya away with a fantastic outside ball into a yawning gap, and when Bukuya in turn found Sam Tagataese at full steam inside the big man showed a surprising turn of pace and an element of deception as he out ran the Warriors cover and skipped inside Kevin Locke at fullback to score a remarkable try.
Worryingly for Flanagan three times successive penalties or errors had the Warriors in good position in the second half, but the black, white and blue defence was bruising in its solidarity, foiling the Warriors efforts. Both sides had tries chalked off over the next ten minutes, first Andrew Fifita getting no reward for a big run, and strong performance overall, the video referees ruling that Chris Heighington had impeded the Warriors defence by standing in the ruck. Next Dane Nielsen went close in the corner and the next set Pita Godinet looked to have put his team on the board with a ducking effort from dummy-half, but the side angle showed the utility had spilt the ball in grounding it on the line.
Not content with their lead the Sharks continued pressing for points and found them with 10 to go in the match, Robson again showing great awareness to step inside and was able to get the ball down despite the attention of three Warriors defenders. Michael Gordon missed his first conversion for the year, but at 28-0 up the home side faithful had 'Up Up Cronulla' already blaring from the stands.
The Warriors' woes continue while despite the scoreline the Sharks have plenty of room for improvement. The Warriors will need to lift if they want to grab the two points when they host North Queensland next round, while the local derby will ensure a tough match for the Sharks up against rivals St. George-Illawarra.