Holmes the difference again for Sharks
For the second time in less than a month Valentine Holmes injected himself from the left wing to prove the game-winner for the Cronulla Sharks.
Just three weeks ago he had been the man to nail the decisive field goal for the Sharks in a 21-20 golden point victory over Canberra, and on Saturday night against the Warriors it was his two tries which lifted his side to a late 18-14 win.
The 20-year-old winger's effort in the 45th minute brought Cronulla to life, in a game which had otherwise been dominated by the Warriors.
While his second try 10 minutes later seemed to inspire the rest of his side to push for the win.
"I was pretty happy [with how I performed]," Holmes told NRL.com.
"I didn't really get involved at the start but worked my way through the game and scored those two tries."
In just his second season of Telstra Premiership football, Holmes has looked every bit the seasoned veteran for most of 2015, and says he is becoming more comfortable with his role in the Cronulla backline.
On Saturday night he passed one of the biggest tests for wingers in the competition with flying colours, marking up on Manu Vatuvei and getting the better of the veteran Kiwi international.
"I am pretty comfortable with it now, and the boys make me feel pretty comfortable with the way they talk to me," said Holmes, who finished the night with 13 carries for 129 metres.
"They give me heaps of confidence and it's really good.
"I was pretty nervous coming into it tonight, he [Vatuvei] is a very experienced winger and very good.
"He is so powerful and strong so it was a big challenge for me, but I thought I overcame it."
The trip to Mount Smart Stadium was also a homecoming of sorts for Holmes, who has links to New Zealand through both his parents, despite being born in Townsville himself.
"My dad was born in New Zealand and raised in Gisborne, my mum was born in the Cook Islands and moved over here pretty much a couple of years after that," said Holmes, who last year turned down advances from the Kiwis to represent them at international level, instead opting for Queensland and Australia.
"Most of my family is still here. I was only able to get 10 tickets but I am not sure how many were there, I think more came."
Meanwhile Sharks coach Shane Flanagan praised the efforts of his edge players in Auckland, who adapted at short notice when Warriors' centres Konrad Hurrell and Solomone Kata switched sides.
The Sharks scored all three of their tries through outside backs, doing much of the damage down their right edge, as Holmes and Gerard Beale got the better of Hurrell and Vatuvei in attack.
"Both our centres knew they were in for a big day today, what side they [Hurrell and Kata] played on didn’t really matter, and I thought they did a real good job," Flanagan said.
"Both Gerard Beale and Ricky Leutele handled them really well. Gerard Beale made some real good inroads and set up a try down there for 'Val' [Holmes].
"I am not sure the reasoning behind why they thought to change them, but we handled it real well."
The victory was the Sharks' fourth in a row, and third-straight on the road.
Next Saturday they host the second-placed Cowboys, in what shapes as their biggest test in the run home.