Warriors admirable season cruelled as Sharks lock in a finals berth

Cronulla Sharks forward Siosifa Talakai

The Cronulla Sharks big men have led the way to another finals berth with a late try to the revelatory Toby Rudolf stealing the game from the resilient New Zealand Warriors in a 22-14 nail-biter.

Both teams were coming in to this match still not guaranteed a position in the Top Eight and – with only two rounds to follow – all bets were off.

For the Sharks, they needed to get their season back on track after a humiliating shellacking from Newcastle in the previous round. For the Warriors it was simple mathematics – they must win.

Again, both teams had their fair share of possession in the opening exchanges before Sione Katoa opened the scoring in the 12th minutes.

The try was assisted ably by the former Warrior Shaun Johnson with an oh-so-perfect long-range grubber.

The magic of SJ was on display, as the mercurial half went about dismantling his old colleagues.

Despite the handling errors of each team (10 errors a-piece in total), the Sharks were again able to find the line 18 minutes later through another Shaun Johnson kick to go up by two scores.

But, as they’ve shown have shown all year, the Warriors refused to lie down and hit back almost immediately through some brilliance from their evergreen captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

He laid on a sweet offload for a rampaging Jack Murchie.

The score would remain 12-6 heading into the sheds with the game very much in the balance and it was certainly game on when the Warriors scored first points in the second half.

Recently re-signed centre Peta Hiku repaid the faith, showing off his strength and silky hands to give Adam Pompey a clear run at the sideline.

Despite the unfavourable sideline position, young gun Chanel Harris-Tevita was able to slot the conversion, locking the game up at 12-12 with half an hour to play.

The Warriors would then take the lead with a long-range penalty goal before digging in for the rest of the game.

It looked like the Warriors would be able to keep their finals hopes alive, absorbing wave after wave of attack from the Sharks big men, before a determined Toby Rudolf run broke their hearts in the 73rd minute.

A late try to Ronaldo Mulitalo rubbed further salt in the wound and sealed a finals spot for the Sharks with two rounds left to go, ending the dreams of four other teams (Tigers, Manly, Titans and Warriors) in one fell swoop.

Score

Cronulla Sharks 22 (Katoa, Rudolf, Mulitalo 2) def New Zealand Warriors 14 (Murchie, Pompey)

Conversions

Shaun Johnson 2/4

Chanel Harris-Tevita 2/2

Penalty Goals

Shaun Johnson 1/1

Chanel Harris Tevita 1/1

NRL News Player of the Match

3 Points – Siosifa Talakai

2 Points – Shaun Johnson

1 Point – Toby Rudolf

Cronulla Sharks half Shaun Johnson

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