Cronulla has won four matches in a row for the first time in two years as they look to lock down a position in the NRL finals.
The Sharks scored a thrilling 18-14 come-from-behind victory over the New Zealand Warriors at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday.
Centre Ricky Leutele gave the Sharks the lead 10 minutes from fulltime as the Warriors, without chief playmaker Shaun Johnson, lacked the execution needed to hang on.
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.
“I was really confident at halftime,” said Sharks captain Paul Gallen. “I was trying to reinforce that to the boys – to stay confident.
“I thought we were defending our line really well. They scored two tries off kicks, they didn’t break us.”
Locked at 12-12 just 14 minutes from fulltime, the home side regained the lead through a Tuimoala Lolohea penalty goal, 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 correctly ruled to have knocked on before Lolohea picked up the loose ball to dive over the line.
“We’ll look at the tape and we’ll see that there was a lot to like about it. There was a lot of energy and it looked a lot different than it did last week,” said Warriors coach Andrew McFadden.
“But we came up with some soft tries in the second half and that’s what let them back in the game.”
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 McFadden would have hoped for more than just four points on the board after 37 minutes, having enjoyed 70 per cent of possession.
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 even the game at 12-all.
But when Leutele beat Solomone Kata to score late in the game, Michael Gordon added the extras with a sideline conversion to get the Sharks home by four.