League: Sharks feed on awful Warriors

By Michael Brown

Manu Vatuvei and the Warriors were walloped by Cronulla at Shark Park today. Photo / Getty
Manu Vatuvei and the Warriors were walloped by Cronulla at Shark Park today. Photo / Getty

Sharks 37
Warriors 6

If the Warriors had made a couple of steps forward recently, they took a giant leap backwards this afternoon with an embarrassing capitulation to the Sharks in Sydney.

Cronulla were the only winless side in the competition leading into the match but the Warriors made them look like title contenders as they gifted the home side opportunity after opportunity.

They dropped the ball on first tackles - they dropped the ball at any time - failed to find touch with a penalty kick and allowed Cronulla to control the match entirely.

The Warriors' performance was nearly on a par with their 62-6 hiding by the Panthers last season. At least they weren't seen laughing and joking with the opposition afterwards.

All the problems of the first two rounds came flooding back and they seemed powerless to stem the Sharks' tide. This was against a side that had lost their first four games of the season and had scored only 28 points all season (and conceded 104).

They also went into the match on the wrong side of a 30-0 defeat to Newcastle last weekend - the Warriors were on a two-game winning streak.

Midway through the second half, the Warriors were sitting only 50 per cent completion rate (11 out of 22 sets) as the errors (17) and penalties (8) mounted.

Rugby league is a pretty simple game based on completing sets and building pressure. The only pressure the Warriors built was that on coach Matt Elliott and he will face another awkward period in his coaching career.

It was imperative they started well against the Sharks to ensure the home side didn't grow in confidence.

They did the complete opposite.

It was all too easy for the Sharks and they took advantage with three tries. The first was scored by Nathan Stapleton after a lovely cutout pass from Todd Carney, the second when Tinirau Arona muscled over under the posts and the third when Sam Tagatese took advantage of a costly dropped ball close to the Warriors' line.

The game wasn't out of their grasp at halftime, especially given they were turning around with a strong wind at their backs, but it wasn't long before it was as they coughed the ball up three times in the first three minutes.

The Sharks gratefully accepted the invitation and piled on the points, with Stapleton the main beneficiary as he finished with four tries.

The Sharks enjoyed 61 per cent possession, which forced the Warriors to make 122 more tackles. Talk about making life difficult for yourselves and a top side would probably have put 50 points on them.

The only time the Warriors crossed was inside the last 60 seconds when Manu Vatuvei finished off a move in the corner for his 121st NRL try.

The Warriors now have the second worst defensive record and worst points differential in the NRL. It says a lot.

Sharks 37 (Nathan Stapleton 4, Tinirau Arona, Sam Tagatese, Blake Ayshford tries; Michael Gordon 4 gls; Todd Carney fg)
Warriors 6 (Manu Vatuvei try; Shaun Johnson gl).
HT: 16-0

- APNZ

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