League: Breaking point looms on Warriors season (+photos)

By Peter Thornton

Sharks 24 Warriors 8

It is hard to know exactly when it is make or break time for the Warriors this season. If it isn't now, then it has to be close.

Every season, when the doom and gloom merchants begin talking the end of their playoff hopes, they seem to find another level through desperation and put themselves back in contention.

It was round 14 last season when the Warriors' win over the Sharks, which broke a six-match losing streak, was the catalyst for their playoff charge.

But that was last year.

Even though there was some encouraging signs in the first 60 minutes of last night's gritty performance, the inconsistency of the Warriors in 2008 signals it may not be premature writing off their playoff chances now.

Even the Warriors' staunchest fans would admit that they haven't created the champagne football that highlighted their season last year.

Right now, with the spark for most of last year's magic Wade McKinnon still on the sidelines, it is hard to see history repeating.

Two well-known deficiencies have plagued the Warriors this year: they have the worst defensive statistics in the league and they have a terrible record away from home.

They looked to turn both of those around last night at Shark Park to keep their doubters at bay, well, for another week at least.

Coach Ivan Cleary has tried to understand what he has been going wrong this year for the Warriors when they head across the Tasman. He concluded that the key to winning across the ditch is starting well and keeping their self belief intact.

He got that in part last night with a big helping hand from the Sharks, who only completed five from 12 sets in the first 25 minutes.

But even with the possession advantage, and a strong wind at their back, the Warriors failed to execute.

When the Sharks finally completed a set on attack, courtesy of a controversial penalty, centre David Simmonds scored on the end of a Seymour grubber.

It would have eased coach Ricky Stuart's rage as he prepared his halftime speech but he was livid again moments later as from the kick off the Sharks produced a forward pass on tackle one. It was the gift the Warriors needed as Jerome Ropati answered back after debutant Ben Matulino got the visitors on the front foot with his first run in the first grade.

The Warriors could have added another before the break but Ian Henderson was held up.

Two penalties were traded and the home side trailed by 8-6 at halftime.

After the break the arm wrestle continued. One of the Blues Origin reps Paul Gallen, who was an off-loading threat all night, came close to scoring. He was the pick of the four players backing up from State of Origin II.

Halfback Brett Kimmorley, who could come into the frame for Origin III, delivered a pinpoint bomb for Simmonds to score his second. But unbelievably, the Sharks dropped the restart.

It was the golden chance for the Warriors to strike back but Lance Hohaia kicked it straight into arms of Covell mid-tackle count.

At the other end of the field there the execution in the halves was more precise.

Covell climbed high to score the match-winning try and convert it to from out-wide.

By now, the self-belief that that Warriors had worked so hard to create was sapped and the final 10 minutes was comprised of more errors by the visitors and a late try to the Sharks through Ben Pomeroy.

Never say never but the Warriors certainly need a massive turnaround in form and confidence if they are going to be a playoff threat. The most probable conclusion right now at the moment is the Warriors season is at breaking point.

Sharks 24 (D Simmons 2, L Covell, B Pomeroy tries; Covell, 4 goals) Warriors 8 (J Ropati, try; L Hohaia 2 goals) Halftime: 6-8

- Herald on Sunday

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