David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Warriors developing grit ahead of difficult away clash against Cronulla Sharks

Warriors coach Andrew McFadden is pleased with his side's growing maturity ahead of Saturday's tough away assignment against the high-flying Cronulla Sharks.

The home side had to scrap their way to a 12-10 victory at Mt Smart Stadium after head-knocks to five-eighth Thomas Leuluai and prop Albert Vete prompted numerous changes in the eighth minute, with versatile bench rookie Nathaniel Roache playing the remainder of the match out of position on the right-wing.

The Warriors also managed to limit the damage in conceding just one try during a nervous period midway through the first-half after wing Ken Maumalo was sinbinned, and showed patience to hold a 6-4 lead until Shaun Johnson crossed for their only try in the 64th minute.

After losing seven of their first 11 matches the Warriors improved markedly to rack up 86 points in their last two wins over Brisbane and Newcastle, but McFadden took greater satisfaction from his side's gritty determination in claiming a third-straight victory.

"I'd say it was better than the last two," said McFadden.

"Because we got challenged, one, by a very spirited team, and then we had our own internal challenges in terms of changes.

"We kept a team to 10 points in what were difficult conditions. In previous weeks we didn't have to deal with that, a lot of stuff went our way.

"Tonight was probably the first time we've really had to go right to the death in a while and we found a way to win and that's important."

The second-ranked Sharks will present a truer test of their finals credentials, with Cronulla unbeaten at home this season and enjoying a 10-game winning streak.

The Warriors will need to be at their disciplined best at Shark Park with Shane Flanagan's side revelling in closely fought contests while also possessing the strike-power and flair to punish sides from all areas of the field.

McFadden was unsure if Leuluai would be fit to play, while Queensland interchange prop Jacob Lillyman will need to back-up from Wednesday's second State of Origin encounter in Brisbane.

The Sharks will be sweating on their four New South Wales players remaining intact, with captain Paul Gallen, five-eighth James Maloney, centre Jack Bird, and damaging forward Andrew Fifita vital to maintaining their momentum.

Meanwhile, rookie Warriors front-rower Toafofoa Sipley has escaped suspension despite being cited for a chicken-wing tackle on Roosters forward Kane Evans.

The grade on dangerous contact charge attracts 75 penalty points with an early guilty plea, meaning Sipley will be available if required for the trip to Sydney.

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 05 Dec 2016 06:35:18 Processing Time: 587ms