Cronulla has improved to seventh spot and ended the Warriors’ slim NRL finals hopes with a clinical 42-16 win at PointsBet Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Sharks were rarely troubled in Matt Prior’s 250th first grade game as they raced in four tries in the first half and three more after the break to move to 24 competition points with two rounds remaining.
Former Warrior Shaun Johnson tormented his old teammates with a dominant display as the playmaker moved past 1000 career points on a day that saw him kick seven goals and set up two tries.
It didn’t take long for the rout to get underway as Paul Gallen broke free in his penultimate home game allowing young gun Bronson Xerri to score in the opening minute.
Patrick Herbert hit back seven minutes later for the Warriors after some nice work from David Fusitua, but the Cronulla right edge weren’t to be outdone as Ronaldo Mulitalo produced a magical flick pass to set up veteran Josh Morris.
Fullback Josh Dugan then produced a solo finish in the left hand corner, and while Isaiah Papali’i pulled one back for the visitors, Briton Nikora sliced through off a Johnson short ball to cap off a dominant first 40 minutes.
“I thought we won that game early and we were able to go on with it in the second half. It was probably close to our best performance of the year,” said Sharks coach John Morris.
The change of ends did little to disrupt the Sharks momentum as Braden Hamlin-Uele powered through some flimsy defence to take the score to 30-10 before Mulitalo edged out Dugan in pursuit of a Xerri grubber to further increase the buffer.
Skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ensured the Warriors faithful had brief respite on an otherwise forgettable afternoon when he sent Fusitua over with a magnificent cut-out pass.
The Warriors’ joy was short-lived as Morris punished a midfield error to power away for his double as the Sharks cruised to a crucial victory that has them in the box seat to earn a spot in the top eight.
“It’s just really frustrating because there’s a lack of belief and a lack of resilience in the group at the moment,” lamented Warriors coach Stephen Kearney after his side dropped to 13th.
I was really disappointed today because there were some really ordinary tries scored and we made it too hard for ourselves.”
Cronulla’s victory was tempered by injuries to winger Sosaia Feki (groin) and interchange forward Jack Williams (foot).
The pair were both replaced in the first half but Morris was hopeful they would be available to play Canberra next Sunday after having scans.
Cronulla should also have fullback Matt Moylan returning from a hamstring injury.
Rabbitohs centre charged for ugly hit
South Sydney centre James Roberts won’t play before the NRL finals after being charged by the match review committee for his cheap shot on Brisbane’s Corey Oates.
Roberts was on Saturday hit with a dangerous contact head/neck charge for the ugly incident in the Rabbitohs’ spiteful win over the Broncos on Friday.
The former Bronco can accept a two-game ban with an early guilty plea which would see him next available for the first week of the finals.
He risks an extra week if he elects to take his case to the judiciary.
Roberts was sin-binned after hitting his former teammate with an elbow to the head as Oates lay face down on the ground.
Souths back-rower Jaydn Su’a will be free to play next week despite being charged with a grade one dangerous contact head/neck offence.
Su’a was also sin-binned for hitting Alex Glenn with an elbow in a tackle and will be free to play with an early guilty plea.
Storm veteran injured until finals
Veteran Melbourne centre Will Chambers may not play again until the NRL finals after suffering an ankle injury at training.
Chambers has pulled out of the Storm line-up to face Gold Coast at AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon and the prognosis is that the representative star will be sidelined for two to four weeks.
His place has been taken by another premiership-winning centre, Curtis Scott, who hasn’t appeared in the NRL since fracturing his foot in round nine.
Scott has only managed six NRL matches this season due to the injury and wavering form, but after playing in their last two grand finals, the Storm have faith in the 21-year-old.
Melbourne has made one other late change with Joe Stimson dropping off the interchange bench to get some extra game time in the Queensland Cup, with his place taken by Tom Eisenhuth.