The Cronulla Sharks juggernaut rolls on as they continue to build momentum with the finals close near, after a brilliant solo try by in-form winger Valentine Holmes guided them to a gutsy 18-14 win.
Playing on the road in New Zealand is never an easy task, but the Sharks dug deep after trailing for long periods of the game, taking the lead when it mattered, right at the death.
They had a nervous wait as the last play of the game saw the Warriors go over but video refs ruled that Simon Mannering had knocked on.
Despite trailing at the break, Sharks captain Paul Gallen was confident that if they had some possession and capitalised, that they could win.
“I was really confident at half time and was trying to reinforce that to the boys, to stay confident,” captain Paul Gallen said.
“They scored two tries [in the first half], both off kicks. We were defending in our systems really well.
“I just knew when we had the ball if we just went set for set with them we would be okay. We just hung in there for each other, worked for each other all game.”
The Warriors came out to impress and scored an early try through the barnstorming Konrad Hurrell. All the momentum was with the home side as they produced five repeat sets, with the Sharks repelling all of them.
The nature of the game saw it go back and forth with both sides needing wins for different reasons, but the Warriors loss means that by the end of the round, they are no guarantee to be in the top eight.
Defence wins games and that was the primary aspect that drew praise from Sharks coach Shane Flanagan.
“That was probably our best defensive effort of the season, we were outstanding when defending our own line, courageous,” Flanagan said.
“Some outstanding tackles, a couple on our line there we made. Our two centres made some real crucial tackles there as well.
“Defence in the first half, particularly in the tail end of it ended up winning us that game.”
With the injury to Johnson a big blow for the Warriors, their makeshift halves pairing saw Tuimoala Lolohea move to halfback and despite the loss, Warriors coach Andrew McFadden was pleased with the combination between he and Chad Townsend.
“I thought he [Lolohea] was solid, he didnâ€™t overplay his hand and he did the things he was good at which was running the ball,” McFadden said.
“I think that combination with him and Chad will obviously evolve. I thought it was a pretty decent game [for the halves].”
The game-changer was the brilliant individual effort from Holmes and he was pleased that it paid off to get his side the win.
“I was pretty happy [with how I performed],” Holmes said.
“I didn’t really get involved at the start but worked my way through the game and scored those two tries.
“[Tomkins] is a pretty experienced fullback so he probably would have made the one-on-one tackle, so I chipped it over and got the lucky bounce.”
3. Valentine Holmes
2. Sam Tagataese
1. Simon Mannering
Sharks 18 (Valentine Holmes 2, Ricky Leutele tries; Gordon 3 goals) defeated Warriors 14 (Konrad Hurrell, Simon Mannering tries; Lolohea 3 goals) at Mount Smart Stadium. HT: 10-0. Crowd: 12,481.