Cronulla have turned a corner in defence with coach John Morris saying Sunday's 22-14 win over the Warriors was only the start of what they could do applying that same mentality.
The Sharks needed the win to not only stagnate the Warriors' progress towards the top eight, but to prepare themselves for two gigantic challenges in the Roosters and Raiders as a pre-playoff primer.
Cronulla have guaranteed themselves at least eighth spot on the ladder but many believe they are merely making up the numbers – evidenced by the fact they have had seven changes in their halves pairings this season.
But Morris pointed to his side coming from 14-12 down at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium to score two tries in the final seven minutes to overhaul the Warriors.
"We can do something solid this year if we continue to turn up with that style of character and our defensive resilience," Morris said.
Match: Sharks v Warriors
Round 18 -
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
"That’s going to be tested again over the next two weeks – it’s only going to get harder and harder from this point on.
"Defensively we need to go up a few gears and stop putting pressure on ourselves from the back of the field. We’ve still got too many errors coming out of our end," he added, referring to eight against the Knights a week ago and 10 errors against the Warriors.
"But I know we’ve got the players and I know they won’t take a backward step. They genuinely don’t fear other oppositions.
What a time to score your first NRL try!
"If we gives ourselves a fair slice of possession then I know we’ve got the points in our team to do some damage."
It was forward Toby Rudolf who terrorised the Warriors defence in the 73rd minute running through and over the top of three of them to score a fine individual try – and that from a player who almost signed with the Auckland-based club.
"He’s been massive. I’m not quite sure how far down the line he went with the Warriors … there was a period there we thought we may have lost him," Morris said.
"But he had some family issues there that was never going to leave Sydney. So his circumstances changed and he always knew it was my intention to hang onto him. He’s agreed to terms for another year and that’s fantastic.
"His injection. Rudolf, late in the game – to come on and score his first try of his career – showed his determination."
A few minutes later, winger Ronaldo Mulitalo scored his second four-pointer of the night and the flame burning inside the Warriors had been doused.
The Warriors certainly didn’t go down without a fight. They surged from 12-0 down to draw level in the 51st minute and then take the lead in the 62nd via a Chanel Harris-Tavita penalty goal from 43 metres out.
Alongside Rudolph, another Sharks hero was Siosifa Talakai. He made a real fist of being Wade Graham’s replacement in the second row with 178 metres from 19 runs.
It was Talakai’s pass that put Mulitalo over in the north-west corner for the Sharks' final try.
Of course, Shaun Johnson - standing in at skipper for the suspended Graham - can’t be overlooked. He added two more try assists to his bulging list as he again played havoc with his former teammates.
Early, it seemed the desperation of the occasion got into the heads of both teams. With barely a quarter of the game played there had been 11 errors – mainly dropped balls or wayward flick passes.
But the Johnson boot led to the Sharks first two tries – one for each winger. First Sione Katoa accelerated away from anyone near him to chase a grubber, then after an air swing from Josh Dugan on another grubber, Mulitalo was the back-up plan to ground the ball.
That’s now 22 try assists for Johnson, who leads the NRL in that department.
Mulitalo double locks in finals spot for Cronulla
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck broke the line in the 36th minute and offloaded for back-rower Jack Murchie to notch his third try in 11 games.
A Hiku run and offload for his winger Adam Pompey, which tore the Knights to shreds a fortnight ago, worked a treat again. Harris-Tavita converted from the sideline and the ledger was square midway through the second half.
The Sharks made a final surge within the last 10 minutes to get the win and bounce back from the 38-10 trouncing at the hands of the Knights.
"I think tonight was a true test of character for us to bounce back from last week. The challenge for us was to come here and find a solution to turn our game around," Morris said.
"In the second half they seemed to have all the ball but just couldn’t put us to sleep. We defended our line much better than we have all year. We kept them to only two tries which is really pleasing."