Massive effort not enough for luckless Sharks
If it wasn't for bad luck the Cronulla Sharks wouldn't have any luck in 2014.
After keeping the NRL's best attacking team to just 16 points, and holding them scoreless in the second half, interim coach James Shepherd conceded his side were on the wrong side of fortune at Mount Smart Stadium.
"Our effort was great, our attitude was great," Shepherd said after their tight loss to the Warriors.
"To keep them scoreless in the second half was a magnificent defensive display.
"Blokes were working really hard for each other.
"With a shade more luck or maybe a different decision we might have grabbed it at the end. I am really proud of them."
Cronulla were forced to endure an early onslaught from the home side, as the Warriors set up camp in the opposition half and enjoyed the lion's share of possession, going into the break with a 16-6 lead.
But the second period was a different story, as the New Zealanders fell to pieces and the Sharkies rallied to trail by just 16-12 with 20 minutes remaining.
Hooker Pat Politoni, a late starter in place of the Bulldogs-bound Michael Lichaa, looked to have broken free for the game-winning play with six minutes remaining, but elected not to pass to an open Michael Gordon and was instead tackled by the desperate Warriors cover defence.
But Shepherd refused to point the finger post match, instead preferring to focus on the positives in a season where the club has won only five games.
"There are hundreds of decisions that are made in the game," he said.
"There might have been three or four that were made early in the game that you don't tend to focus on. You have to look at it as an 80-minute performance, and we were really good. Mind you, they [the Warriors] were good as well."
Halfback and stand-in captain Jeff Robson, who laid on assists for both his side's tries, said the performance summed up season 2014 for the Sharks.
"It has been a frustrating year," he said.
"We have had a lot of close games and had a lot of stuff go on outside of footy that you can't really control.
"The way the boys turned up today really showed the pride we have in the club.
"We are going to play for each other for the back end of the year and hopefully get a few wins and get off this wooden spoon.
"Whenever we play the Warriors it is always a close game, and they are pushing for a finals berth so there was definitely some desperation there."
Things might yet get worse for Cronulla, with prop Andrew Fifita – arguably their best performer over the last month – appearing to pick up an injury in the loss.
"He has had a wrist injury for a number of weeks, [but] Andrew is obviously a quality player and super tough," Shepherd said
"He is going to play through those things where he can, but it hampered him a little bit.
"To get him off the field is difficult at any time."
Meanwhile Sharks forward Sam Tagataese was among the first people in the Warriors' sheds after the full-time siren, checking on the health of Dane Nielsen, who he tipped into a dangerous position early in the second half.
Tagataese was placed on report and Nielsen was not able to return to the game.