A re-energised Sharks outfit ran in seven tries, including a brace from veteran centre Josh Morris, to made relatively light work of the Warriors with a convincing 42-16 win at PointsBet Stadium on Saturday.
After the meagre 19-18 score line the Warriors' way, when these two sides last met in round 18 in a wet and windy Wellington, it was a proverbial points feast with 58 in round 23 on a sunny and dry track in Sydney.
The Sharks now leap-frog the Broncos into seventh spot on the ladder while the Warriors will be looking to salvage a little pride with their remaining games against the Rabbitohs and Raiders, since a top-eight finish is out of the question.
It was more frantic football in the first half that any fabulous standards reached, even if there were six tries scored – four to the Sharks – which gave them a 24-10 lead at the break.
Bronson Xerri made it five tries in five games after an initial Aaron Woods off-load put Paul Gallen in the clear. The 38-year-old got his legs pumping – he’s never scored against the Warriors in his 19 seasons with Cronulla. The young centre scored off the next play.
Match: Sharks v Warriors
Round 23 -
Venue: PointsBet Stadium, Sydney
Xerri’s try took less than two minutes to produce so it was on the cards the Warriors were in for an uncomfortable afternoon. Tries to birthday boy Josh Morris, who turned 33 on Friday, were followed by Josh Dugan and Briton Nikora before the half-time whistle.
Five-eighth Shaun Johnson was in the thick of everything against his former club, making the line break for Morris’s try and delivering the final pass to put Nikora in the clear. The Kiwis international also landed all seven conversions to reach 1000 NRL points – the 52nd man to do it in first grade.
The Warriors never let the Sharks swim too far ahead. They replied with two fine tries of their own in the opening 40 minutes – Patrick Herbert off a Blake Green pass, and fine acceleration by back-rower Isaiah Papali’i.
But after starting the second term successfully defending three sets on their line, the Sharks were in the hunt again for points.
After good runs through the middle by Andrew Fifita and Jayden Brailey, halfback Chad Townsend found Roger Tuivasa-Sheck up in the line so he put young prop Braden Hamlin-Uele through a gap. The Glenora Bears junior ran 20 metres to the line.
Mulitalo breaks down the right for Morris to score
The fourth member of the Sharks back-five, Ronaldo Mulitalo, scored Cronulla’s sixth try when he just beat Dugan to the ball off a Xerri grubber for a handy 36-10 lead.
A typical air-borne ball plant by David Fusitu’a and a sideline conversion from Patrick Herbert and the lead was reduced slightly – but it was still a 20-point margin. And that didn’t last long when Morris made a clear bust for his second under the sticks to blow the score out to 42-16.
Johnson puts Nikora into a hole
Remember the Sharks were down to 15 men for the entire second half with both Sosaia Feki (groin) and Jack Williams (ankle) not able to return to the field.
Matt Prior had a little trouble busting through his 250th game banner, but no difficulty in leaving his mark on the game with 10 runs and 107 minutes in his 49 minutes. Referee Gavin Badger played all 80 minutes in his 350th NRL game.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison wasn’t there to watch it all or bang the esky during the team victory song - he’s in Biarritz in the south of France for a G7 economic summit.