Gutsy Sharks beat Warriors
Inspired by some individual brilliance from Valentine Holmes, the Sharks have rallied late to secure an 18-14 road victory over the Warriors on Saturday night.
The Sharks trailed for the first 70 minutes of the match, but led for the 10 that mattered in front of 12,481 at Mount Smart Stadium.
The visitors had to survive a video referee decision in the final minute, as the Warriors claimed a try which would have tied scores at 18-all.
Ultimately captain Simon Mannering was ruled to have knocked on, leaving the Sharks to claim their fourth-straight victory.
"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."
A double from Holmes had brought Cronulla to life in the second half, after they were completely dominated by a well-drilled Warriors outfit who completed at 86 percent and ran for more than double the metres of their opponents in the first 40.
Centre Konrad Hurrell opened the scoring after just five minutes, following a pinpoint driven kick from Chad Townsend, which was batted back by Manu Vatuvei.
Man of the moment Tuimoala Lolohea hit the conversion off the post to leave it at 4-0.
The Kiwi side were having it all their own way, at one stage forcing five consecutive sets camped on the Cronulla line.
But the Sharks were more than up to the challenge, holding strong and eventually forcing an error.
As half time approached the hosts were sitting on 68 percent possession, much of it coming in the attacking third, and finally got over the line again, thanks to a deft grubber from interchange hooker Siliva Havili.
Mannering producing a great chase to beat Jeff Robson to the ball and score his first try of the year.
Lolohea converted for a 10-0 lead at the break.
A midfield break from Hurrell to open to second period had the Sharks sweating, but they survived before going down the other end and scoring their first of the night.
A break through the middle of the park from Sam Tagataese had the Warriors back-peddling, before the ball found Jack Bird then Holmes, who finished athletically in the face of attention from a covering Vatuvei.
Fullback Michael Gordon converted from the sideline to reduce the deficit to 10-6.
Just as they were starting to get back into the game discipline let the Sharks down again, with the Warriors converting a penalty from in front of the sticks to take the gap back to a converted try.
Already a proven match winner for the Sharks in 2015, Holmes looked determined to do it again as he scored a brilliant solo try with 24 minutes remaining.
After latching on to a Gerard Beale offload Holmes raced down the right wing, chipping over Sam Tomkins and regathering over the line for his double, which tied the game at 12 apiece.
The back and forth nature of the contest continued when Lolohea booted another penalty to reclaim the advantage a short time later.
But 10 minutes from time the visitors took the lead in the match for the first time, as Ricky Leutele finished off a lively coast-to-coast movement with a powerful run over Solomone Kata.
Gordon was on target again to give the Sharks an 18-14 lead.
Coach Shane Flanagan still had to survive one more huge scare, as Vatuvei broke free down field with two minutes to go.
With a seemingly wide open Lolohea on his outside the big winger ran back inside himself, and the set eventually broke down with a 20-metre tap awarded to the Sharks.
But that decision was overturned on video review, gifting the Warriors a dropout and one final chance to either send the match to golden point, or win it in regulation time with a converted try.
And they came very close.
As Mannering ran a hard line from 10 out he released the ball and Lolohea dived over the line.
But it was ruled out, condemning the Warriors to a third-straight defeat with no guarantee of being in the top eight come the end of Round 21.
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.