Sharks break Warriors’ heart at death

Ricky Leutele gave Cronulla a thrilling 18-14 NRL victory over the Warriors at Mount Smart Stadium.

The talented centre gave the Sharks their first lead 10 minutes from fulltime as the Warriors, without chief playmaker Shaun Johnson, lacked the execution needed to maintain their lead when momentum swung late.

Tries to Konrad Hurrell and Simon Mannering gave the Warriors a 10-0 halftime lead, which quickly evaporated due to a stunning second-half double by star Sharks winger Valentine Holmes.

Locked at 12-12 just 14 minutes from fulltime, the home side regained the lead through a Tuimoala Lolohea penalty, only for Leutele to crash over in the left corner moments later.

One final chance presented itself for the Warriors with just seconds left on the clock but captain Mannering was ruled to have knocked on before Lolohea picked up the loose ball to dive over the line.

The Sharks, missing stood down prop Andrew Fifita, toiled in the middle but it was an uphill battle early as the likes of Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman and Albert Vete asserted their dominance.

The one-way traffic continued for most of the first half but Warriors coach Andrew McFadden would have hoped for more than just four points on the board after 37 minutes, having enjoyed 70 per cent of possession.

Chad Townsend showed the skills he will bring back to the Sharks in 2016, kicking high to set up the opening try to Hurrell, who cleaned up after winger Manu Vatuvei batted the ball back.

The Sharks’ defence held firm as halfback Jeff Robson cut down every charging run sent his way, with the Warriors looking to use Matulino in his new second-row position on the right edge.

Penalties hampered the flow for both sides but field position proved key as the Warriors eventually extended their lead three minutes from halftime as Mannering grounded a Siliva Havili grubber for his first try of the season.

After the break, the Sharks hit back almost immediately as Sam Tagatese brushed aside Raymond Faitala-Mariner to set up Holmes in the right corner.

The winger then doubled his tally when put into space by a deft Gerard Beale offload. Streaking down the right flank, Holmes chipped over Sam Tomkins then regathered to score to level the scores a 12-12.

The Sharks looked to have taken their first lead of the game in the 58th minute when Tagatese barged over, only for replays to reveal obstruction during the build-up.

Lolohea calmly regained the lead with his his second penalty goal but it was shortlived as Leutele beat Solomone Kata to score.

On a perfect day with the boot, Michael Gordon added the extras with a clutch sideline conversion to see the Sharks home by four.

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