The Warriors’ fast-evaporating NRL playoffs hopes have all but disappeared after Brian McClennan’s side slumped to their fourth consecutive loss today.
The Sharks, equally desperate to turn around their own three-match losing streak, showed far more energy and execution to run away with a 45-4 win in this round 22 encounter at Mt Smart Stadium.
The seven-try effort represented the Sharks’ biggest win over the Warriors in 29 matches.
Guilty of blowing 18-point leads in their last two losses, the Warriors simply never got going yesterday.
Instead they allowed the Sharks to jump out to a 20-nil lead and simply weren’t good enough to even look like hauling that in.
While the Warriors still stay in touch of the top eight on a congested table, they remain 12th with opportunities running out. And this size of this defeat hurt their points differential which could yet come into play.
The Warriors now play the Cowboys (away), Panthers (home), Dragons (away) and Raiders (home).
The loss was compounded by playmaker James Maloney suffering a medial ligament problem in his left knee.
The Sharks jumped to fourth with this win and can renew their search for a top four position.
They got the expected inspirational performance from Paul Gallen who returned from injury prematurely, determined to turn his side’s fortunes around.
As usual his work ethic couldn’t be faulted and he provided the momentum to the Sharks forward effort to keep them on the front foot.
With that sort of platform, Todd Carney was always going to be a handful. He scored two tries himself and cleverly guided the Sharks attack as well as adding 17 points with his boot.
Without that sort of go-forward the Warriors were rushed into mistakes. It was an ugly effort on a sunny Auckland afternoon.
The Warriors had an unlucky start when a Shaun Johnson grubber rebounded off a Sharks player to Carney who scooted away for an 85m try against the run of play.
But it was Carney’s clever footwork close to the line that got him across in the 13th minute in an ominous sign for the Warriors who were quickly down 12-0.
Carney added another two points when the Sharks opted to kick for goal from a penalty handy to the Warriors’ line, a sign of the must-win mentality of the visitors.
The Sharks exposed some poor defence to have Jeff Robson dot down for their third try.
The Warriors finally got on the board after 30 minutes when Elijah Taylor was stripped of the ball but it fell for wing Bill Tupou to scoop up and crash over in the corner.
Carney landed a field goal right on halftime to give the Sharks a 21-4 lead at the break.
The Sharks started the second half where they left off, with Andrew Fifita strolling through some sloppy Warriors defence to score next to the posts.
Left wing John Williams got up high to steal an attacking bomb from out of Tupou’s grasp and come down for the try and Carney’s boot kept adding the extras, this time from the sideline to make it 33-4 heading into the last quarter.
Williams got his second five minutes later with a dive to the corner and large sections of the crowd were on their feet – heading towards the exit gates, disgusted with this capitulation.
There was still time for Fifita to crash over between the posts.
CRONULLA 45 (T Carney 2 A Fifita 2 J Williams 2 J Robson tries T Carney 8 goals T Carney field goal) bt WARRIORS 4 (B Tupou try) at Mt Smart Stadium. Referee: Tony Archer, Alan Shortall. Crowd: 13,812.
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