Warriors hold on to limp past Sharks
The Warriors have survived a scare from a resilient Cronulla Sharks side to claim a 16-12 victory which keeps their finals plans right on track.
After dominating the first 40 minutes at Mount Smart Stadium the Warriors spluttered their way through the second stanza to sneak home against the team sitting dead last in the competition.
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The New Zealanders have made a living off prolific attack this season, and in their last five games had averaged over 30 points. But against a Sharks side riddled with injuries, including the late withdrawal of captain Paul Gallen due to a virus, the Warriors managed just 16 points in total and failed to get over the line at all in the second period.
Things started according to coach Andrew McFadden's plans, as the home side came out firing in fashion typical of their 2014 form.
The home side forced back-to-back dropouts and enjoyed a free ride downfield on several occasions in the opening exchanges, thanks largely to poor discipline from Cronulla.
It wasn't long before the pressure told and for the sixth-straight game the Warriors got over the tryline inside the opening 10 minutes, with right centre Ngani Laumape putting on some footwork to roll through two would-be tacklers out wide.
Five-eighth Chad Townsend, taking over the goal-kicking duties in the absence of Shaun Johnson, booted from the sideline to give his side a 6-0 lead after seven minutes.
The Sharks battled through the entire first 10 minutes with a single use of the football, but made their next couple of possessions count when Tinirau Arona, who started in the place of Gallen, pounced on a loose ball in goal to score. Michael Gordon slotted the extras to tie it up.
The Warriors continued to completely dominate time on the ball, but without key strike weapons Johnson and Konrad Hurrell looked lost for answers on several attacking chances.
With 68 per cent of possession the Kiwis were camped inside the opposition half, and on 24 minutes they found success when Laumape broke through for a second, before Dane Nielsen produced a quality offload for Manu Vatuvei to go over on the opposite flank minutes later.
Statistics by now suggested the Sharks should be behind by 20 or more, yet their stubborn defence continued to deny the NRL's best attacking unit and saw them trailing by just 16-6 at the break.
The Warriors started the second period in sloppy fashion, producing a glut of errors and surpassing Cronulla in both mistakes and missed tackles.
The patient Sharks finally got some reward with 20 to go, as Jeff Robson put in a pinpoint cross-field kick to find unmarked former Junior Warrior Sosaia Feki.
A Gordon conversion from the touchline pulled the visitors back to a deficit of just 16-12, and with momentum on their side an upset was in the making.
After Chad Townsend inexplicably missed a penalty from in front with two minutes remaining, the Warriors did just enough to limp home and secure two competitions points which most in stadium had viewed as a sure thing prior to kick-off.
In winning the Warriors ended a five-game losing streak against the Sharks, and banked their fifth victory at Mount Smart Stadium for 2014.
Warriors 16 (Laumape x2, Vatuvei tries; Townsend 2 goals) defeated Sharks 12 (Arona, Feki tries; Gordon 2 goals) at Mount Smart Stadium. Crowd: 13,939.