WARRIORS 14 SHARKS 18
On the scoreboard: Jonathan Wright scored for the Sharks. Photo: Getty Iamges
The under-siege Sharks have edged past the Warriors in a error-ridden, but exciting NRL encounter in Auckland.
On-fire five-eighth Todd Carney and veteran back-rower Paul Gallen, playing his first game since injuring his foot in Origin II, were the Sharks standouts, as the Warriors red hot run, with seven wins in the last eight matches, cooling right off.
Injury concern: Sharks centre Ben Pomeroy was stretchered off against the Warriors after suffering concussion. Photo: Getty Images
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Vatuvei(2), Hurrell||Tries||3||Tries||3||Players||Wright, Pomeroy, Stapleton|
|Players||Johnson 1/3 (33%)||Conversions||1||Conversions||2||Players||Carney 2/3 (66%)|
|Players||Penalty goals||0||Penalty goals||1||Players||Carney 1/1 (100%)|
|Players||Field goals||0||Field goals||0||Players|
Carney has a habit of tormenting the Warriors – and it would be no different in front of 15,209 fans at Mt Smart Stadium tonight. Carney was inventive throughout, with his boot peppering the Warriors shaky right edge defense all night long.
Back for his first game of footy since Origin Two in Brisbane, Gallen looked like he hadn't missed a minute.
Typically influential in the middle of the park, the NSW hardman created opportunities and space for his exciting back line to create from.
In both halves, the Sharks looked the more likely from attacking opportunities. The Warriors gave the visitors heart palpitations in the final quarter, with tries to Konrad Hurrell and Manu Vatuvei late in the piece - but the visitors were the deserving recipients of the two competition points up for grabs.
Despite their performances of late, the Warriors red-hot run was going to end eventually.
Sustaining such the high tempo style of football the Warriors have been playing over the last two months is near impossible in the NRL, and the New Zealand side came back down to earth somewhat tonight.
The Warriors, especially in the first-half, looked behind the eight-ball; making a skew of unforced errors in the tackle, and with ball in hand. The right edge defense was again weak, while livewire halfback Shaun Johnson struggled to control the game the way fans have become accustomed to of late.
After a scrappy opening ten minutes, the Sharks would be the first on the scoreboard when a flat ball from Carney released winger Jonathan Wright to go over, through anaemic tackling by Hurrell and Ngani Laumape.
Thomas Leuluai and Kevin Locke tried to create on early Warriors raids, but errors would curse the home side. The Sharks weren't as wasteful, looking dangerous with every attacking set.
Their second try was a beauty, with Gallen wheeling off the back of a 23rd minute Sharks scrum and handing Ben Pomeroy a neat ball to put the Sydneysiders 10 ahead.
The Warriors looked rattled, but responded strongly with giant winger Vatuvei going over in the left-hand corner after clever work early in the set from Leuluai.
Momentum continued to shift as the rest of the first half played out, with the Warriors blowing a big opportunity right before the buzzer when Vatuvei pushed Nathan Stapleton after Johnson put up a towering bomb, nullifying his own grab of the ball.
The Warriors lack of cohesion continued in the second half, with the Sharks back on top of them early. Carney kept wreaking havoc, but it was hulking prop Andrew Fifita that would set up the opening points of the second stanza.
Gathering up a deflected Johnson chip, Fifita travelled 40 metres to set up a raid, which was polished off by Nathan Stapleton in the right-hand corner. Pomeroy was injured in the play, badly knocking his head on the ground in a tackle.
The lack of spark in the halves continued to dog the Warriors as the half wore on. Strong runs by Dane Nielsen and Simon Mannering offered the home side chances, but the Sharks defense remained rock solid.
A typically barn-storming run by Hurrell, set up by Johnson, pulled the Warriors back into the match late, as did a second from Vatuvei - but it was too little too late.
CRONULLA 18 (B Pomeroy N Stapleton J Wright tries T Carney 3 goals) bt WARRIORS 14 (M Vatuvei 2 K Hurrell tries S Johnson goal) at Mt Smart Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin, Gavin Reynolds. Crowd: 15,209.