Vodafone Warriors prop Sam Rapira putting his shoulder into it during the club's 12-2 victory over Cronulla at Shark Park in 2007. Photo: Photosport.
Any win at Cronulla’s home ground is a big one for the Vodafone Warriors but, as they prepare for their 15th encounter there, the focus here goes on two of the four victories secured in 14 attempts in the Shire.
One was in 2003, the other in 2007.
The first had plenty of spectacular moments in a season when the Vodafone Warriors would finish within one win of reaching the grand final for the second year running; the second was a grim battle in atrocious weather.
In 2003 the Vodafone Warriors scored five tries to four, Stacey Jones providing the telling difference with five from five with the boot plus a critical field goal.
The Sharks went to halftime leading 20-12 before the Vodafone Warriors surged to a 24-20 lead through a Brent Webb try – he ran from dummy half and no one laid a hand om him – followed by Clinton Toopi’s one-on-one strip to score in the 54th minute.
Back came the Sharks to tie it up at 24-24 before Jones broke the deadlock with a 77th minute field goal.
In virtually the last minute of the contest Brett Kimmorley went for a field goal attempt from well out to try to take the game into extra time. Instead it was taken by winger Justin Murphy who beat four defenders in a length-of-the-field try to give the Vodafone Warriors a seven-point win.
Four years later the weather conditions were grim in the extreme. It was a night when Vodafone Warriors captain Steve Price was to run and run and run all night. A total of 33 times he carried the ball for 306 metres, a record for a forward in an NRL match.
The match was the ultimate arm wrestle. Just 4202 fans braved wild weather as the Vodafone Warriors worked their way into a 6-2 lead and held onto it tenaciously before Manu Vatuvei’s try wide out in the dying stages clinched victory. Most memorable was Micheal Witt’s remarkble side-line conversion into the teeth of a gale for a 12-2 win in a season when the Vodafone Warriors finished in the top four.
The 2014 edition of Vodafone Warriors-Cronulla clashes at Shark Park tomorrow (5.05pm kick-off NZT) features just one survivor from the 2003 encounter – Thomas Leuluai – and four from the 2007 meeting i(Cronulla’s Isaac de Gois and Vodafone Warriors players Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei and Sam Rapira).
Overall the Vodafone Warriors have four wins in 14 visits to Remondis Stadium, which used to be Endeavour Field but has been known variously as Caltex Field, Ronson Oval, Shark Park, Toyota Park and Toyota Stadium.
The Vodafone Warriors' other wins at the ground were the very first visit there in 1995 when Stacey Jones, starting in a first-grade game for the first time, kicked the critical go-ahead field goal (as he would also do in 2003) in a 23-18 victory; the most recent was in 2010 when the Vodafone Warriors won 37-10 with Bill Tupou collecting a hat-trick.
June 16, 2007
Cronulla Sharks 2 (Luke Covell penalty).
Vodafone Warriors 12 (Michael Witt, Manu Vatuvei tries; Michael Witt 2 conversions).
Referee: Gavin Badger.
Vodafone Warriors: Wade McKinnon; Patrick Ah Van, Todd Byrne, Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei; Michael Witt, Grant Rovelli; Evarn Tuimavave, George Gatis, Steve Price (c); Logan Swann, Louis Anderson; Micheal Luck. Interchange: Nathan Fien, Sam Rapira, Wairangi Koopu, Epalahame Lauaki.
Coach: Ivan Cleary.
July 19, 2003
Cronulla Sharks 24 (Matthew Rieck, David Peachey, Sam Isemonger, Jarrad Anderson tries; Jarrad Anderson 3 conversions, penalty).
Vodafone Warriors 31 (Clinton Toopi 2, Richard Villasanti, Brent Webb, Justin Murphy tries; Stacey Jones 5 conversions, field goal).
Referee: Shayne Hayne.
Vodafone Warriors: Brent Webb; Justin Murphy, Vinnie Anderson, Clinton Toopi, Francis Meli; Thomas Leuluai, Stacey Jones; Jerry Seuseu, Monty Betham (c), Richard Villasanti; Wairangi Koopu, Awen Guttenbeil; Sione Faumuina. Interchange: Tevita Latu, Iafeta Paleaaesina, Karl Temata, Ali Lauitiiti.
Coach: Ivan Cleary.