There was plenty of applause thrown at Cronulla after their effort to win on Sunday when they were down to 11 players, but it can’t be understated how excruciating the Warriors were in handing the victory to the Sharks in PointsBet Stadium.
Serious questions must be asked about the Warriors in light of their pathetic second-half capitulation when they conceded 17 unanswered points, failed to make a line break against a badly depleted team and played the one of the dumbest footballs imaginable.
Trailing 12-10 at the break, they had 40 minutes against a side that had already lost Will Kennedy in the 17th minute, then went 10 minutes midway through the second half with 11 on the pitch when Jesse Ramien was sentenced for another high blow.
Reviewing the footage, it’s clear that this team lacks direction and tactical savvy, but also common sense as they continually let the Sharks off the hook despite having them at their mercy.
How not to win an NRL match against 11 men
Breaking down the devilish display, here’s how the Warriors sets played out.
Set 1 against 12 players: The set comes to naught with a kick from Shaun Johnson who ends up with center Viliami Vailea, who strikes close to the try line.
Series 2 vs 12: Johnson fumbles on game four after a careless pass from Jazz Tevaga just over halfway. “It’s the kind of football that will keep the Sharks in the game,” Fox League commentator Greg Alexander warned. He couldn’t have been more on the spot.
Cronulla scored in the 46th minute through Connor Tracey after forcing a line drop. It’s 16-10 for the locals.
Series 3 against 12: The Warriors receive a penalty for piggybacking out of their own zone.
Series 4 against 12: Johnson’s grubber goes to Matt Moylan on the goal line, who returns to the field of play.
Series 5 vs 12: This one ends with another ineffective Johnson grubber going straight to Hynes, who moved to fullback after Kennedy’s walk.
In the 54th minute, Ramien was condemned for his hit on Euan Aitken and on the NRL’s fluctuating barometer of dealing with high shots he should have been sent off. “Could there have been more severe measures taken? NRL head of football Graham Annesley reflected on Monday.
“Based on the circumstances that the bunker and the referee faced, there could have been. I wouldn’t have been unhappy either (it was a send off), but that’s how they saw it at the time.
The last time a team had two players walked for the rest of the game since Cronulla v Parramatta in 2003 in a game that ended in a club record 74-4 loss.
Based on what happened on Sunday, it’s highly doubtful the Warriors would have won let alone run away from the game had the Sharks played the final 26 minutes with just 11.
Cronulla was smart in absorbing time when Ramien was out, offloading in attack to extend the game rather than taking a conservative approach which would have meant shorter attacking sets and more work to do in defence.
Series 6 vs 11: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak throws a speculative pass that strays in the fourth game, recovered by Sharks prop Andrew Fifita. The Warriors compound the error by giving a relief penalty when Matt Lodge foolishly rushes off the line in a clear offside violation.
Series 7 against 11: A set seven tackles after Moylan’s kick is dead, who then concedes a penalty for stripping the ball on a two-on-one tackle.
Series 8 against 11: In perfect attacking position after the downward penalty kick, they get a restart after a Sharks offense.
Series 9 against 11: With everything in their favor and their exhausted opponents gasping for air, they squander the opportunity six times when Johnson snatches the dead ball line from five yards.
“I can’t believe they released all that pressure with a bad kick from Shaun Johnson,” a flabbergasted Alexander said in a comment. “It is impossible for the Sharks to defend this line for another set. I don’t think they had it in them. A repeated set would have pretty much killed the Sharks.
10 vs. 11 set: No real questions posed to Cronulla’s defense, the set ended with a mediocre bomb from Johnson as Ramien returned to the fray. Hynes spots Rocco Berry standing incorrectly at the marker, runs straight at him and he takes the bait committing a tackle that was always going to be a penalty.
Tracey scores again to make it 22-10 with 13 minutes to play and this contest is an obvious mismatch although it is the side with fewer players who appear to have the overlap advantage.
With 11 minutes remaining, Fox League commentator Matt Russell reported that he went to the Warriors bench and asked if they were putting in their 18th replacement player because they could , like Aitken, failing his HIA because of a revocable infraction. He said they told him they weren’t and after “confusion reigned” Bayley Sironen ran onto the pitch.
Series 11 vs 12: They run the ball on the final play, seemingly unconscious, and exchange striker Jack Murchie, replacing in the middle, is tackled in possession 30 yards from his own line.
The Warriors dodge a bullet when Tracey lands but the last pass was set correctly forward.
12 vs. 12 set: Nothing special again in the preparation and the set ends with a high kick from Johnson taken in full by Hynes.
With six minutes remaining, Hynes netted a field goal with Sironen, the only warrior bothering to contest the kick and the Sharks went beyond two converted tries to lead 23-10.
Sharks striker Britain’s Nikora is allowed to stand in a tackle as two nearby Warriors stand still, so he unloads on Hynes, who sets Kennedy up for the final nail in the coffin and a stunning score from 29-10.
Set 13 vs 12: This ends with another high kick from Johnson, recovered comfortably by Tracey before the pursuers closed in on him.
Set 14 vs 12: Summing up the second half perfectly, a bad pass to Daejarn Asi is fumbled around his ankles and it’s the last time the Warriors see the ball.
Warriors coach Nathan Brown said in the post-game press conference that the power play wasn’t automatically going to mean they would get the upper hand because of the spirit that his counterpart Craig Fitzgibbon had instilled in the Sharks this year.
He blamed much of the blame for the loss on his right edge and said their attack needed to be better, but added he couldn’t fault his side’s effort.
Even if the team effort was up to snuff, losing to a team that saw two players banned is inexcusable and alarm bells should ring after two lackluster performances in the space of three weeks, following the humiliation 70-10 in Melbourne. Anzac day.
Phil Gould, who was the club’s general manager until last year, said on 100% Footy Monday Night that the Shark Park massacre was a worse performance than Storm’s flogging.
“The last try was insulting, it was terrible,” he said. “They’re not like that, those Warriors boys. They’re big kids and they’re competitive and they try hard. I just can’t explain what happened to them yesterday in the second half and why the pressure of that situation got to them. It never reached the Sharks, it affected them.
“It was a terrible performance.”
Forward rower Addin Fonua-Blake was named captain while Tohu Harris has returned to full fitness after tearing his ACL last year. Harris is back in full contact training hoping to be back on the court soon and he’ll provide some real leadership, but there’s not much he can do to make this scoundrel respectable.
The Warriors have had some injury worries and backup half Ash Taylor has been forced to retire, leading them to recently sign young Cowboys five-eighth Daejarn Asi for the remainder of the season.
They added lower level Roosters duo Ronald Volkman and Freddy Lussick on Monday after releasing Kodi Nikorima, who will take them on this Saturday when he lines up for his new club South Sydney in the Magic Round.
It’s been a tough few years with the COVID-forced relocation to Australia away from their Auckland base and their return game at Mt Smart Stadium – their first at the venue since 2019 – is less than two months away against the Wests Tigers on July 3.
At 4-5 and sitting 10th on the ladder, all is not lost – they actually moved up a place this weekend for and against because St George Illawarra lost by a bigger margin to Melbourne .
But all signs point to this being another season where the Warriors are hot and cold with players moving in and out of the team and the club, as they have for several years.
From Sunday’s turn of events, they appear to be returning home in the same state of disarray.