The bad news is the Warriors' winning run is over. The good news is that the Auckland club have proved their mettle, pushing the Sharks to the limit before going down to an 87th-minute James Maloney drop goal in golden point.

It was a heartbreaking way to lose, especially after the Warriors stormed back into the contest in the second half , but they will return home with their heads held high.

It was their best performance of the season, against a team who have now won their last 11. They stayed in the contest, despite some things going against them, and went blow-for-blow with the highly-rated Sharks.

The decision to start Jonathan Wright ahead of Tui Lolohea will come under the microscope, as the former Sharks winger had a shocker with two vital errors, which in the end, were probably the difference. The other turning point was a strange penalty try awarded to the Sharks, which was impossible to comprehend on any level.


But the progress is clear. The Warriors made six errors in the first 30 minutes, but kept the NRL's form team to zero with some spirited defence. It was the complete opposite to a few weeks ago, when they were incapable of defending errors.

Coach Andrew McFadden shuffled his pack before kickoff, shifting Lolohea to the bench and Wright onto the wing. Wright is a solid footballer, but it's difficult to see how he brings more to the equation than Lolohea. The Warriors opened the scoring through Blake Ayshford in the 23rd minute, after a brilliant break and no-look pass from David Fusitua.

Fusitua has been one of the best at the club over the last month, looking equally at home on the wing or at fullback. Despite their errors, the visitors extended their lead six minutes later through Wright, touching down after a Shaun Johnson break on the right edge.

However, two lapses in concentration released the pressure on the Sharks. Michael Ennis was allowed to run over untouched from dummy half near the posts then Ricky Leutele forced his way over after a poor error from Wright.

And Wright was in the spotlight early in the second half, dropping an Ayshford pass cold with the Sharks' line wide open.

That was a turning point, as the Sharks forced their way up-field and extended their lead through a penalty try. It was a bizarre decision, as if the rules that have governed league for decades were suddenly forgotten.

Simon Mannering was guilty of momentarily holding back Jayson Bakuya as he chased an Ennis grubber, but there no evidence whatsoever that the former Warrior was certain to reach, or indeed ground the rolling ball.

A forceful Thomas Leuluai try gave the Warriors so hope, before a 74th-minute Issac Luke penalty tied the scores up. Both teams had chances to win in normal time - with Bodene Thompson agonisingly close - before a Maloney wobbly strike settled the contest.

Sharks 19 (M. Ennis, R. Leutele tries, penalty try; J. Maloney 3 goals, drop goal)
Warriors 18 (B. Ayshford, J. Wright, T. Leuluai tries; I. Luke 3 goals)
Halftime: 12-10