The Warriors have improved to 4-1 on the season after erasing a 20-nil, first-half lead to finish on top of the Sharks 32-30 in astonishing fashion at PointsBet Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
On a soggy surface, the hosts got off to a dream start; an opening set, Marata Niukore error gave the Sharks a prime opportunity to open their account and they did so through left back-rower Teig Wilton who was the beneficiary of a Ronaldo Mulitalo tap-back off a cross-field chip from Nicho Hynes.
They snagged a second in the opening five minutes after a well-timed, left-side shift saw Mulitalo score one of his own to make it 12-0.
Soon after, the right edge invited themselves to the party with Sione Katoa putting the bow on another sharp shift to make it three converted tries to nothing as things began getting out of hand for Andrew Webster’s Warriors.
An 18th-minute Hynes penalty goal made it 20-to-zip to keep the home side ahead of the clock before the Warriors got on the board off the back of it through hooker Wayde Egan who gathered in a wild, Marcelo Montoya tap-back to dive over under the sticks for his fourth try in four games.
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Another right-side shift opened up a breezy path to the try-line for Sharks fullback William Kennedy to grab his sixth try of 2023 and give the Sharks a 26-6 advantage.
Niukore burst through a hole off the hip of Shaun Johnson to dive over on the half-hour mark and keep the Warriors attached by the skin of their teeth before the former-Eel was sensationally binned on the stroke of half-time for a hip-drop on Sharks centre Siosifa Talakai.
Despite being a man down, the Warriors scored the first points of the second stanza after Johnson scooped up a Mulitalo drop off his own kick to make things interesting.
With Niukore back on, the Warriors scored another through right winger Ed Kosi to cut the Sharks lead to just two and set up a frenzied final quarter.
Mulitalo dove over in the left corner for another moments later to give the Sharks some breathing room, however, Hynes’ first missed conversion of the match kept the Warriors within a single score.
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That score came in the 67th minute through Warriors enforcer Josh Curran – who spent last week playing NSW Cup – motoring through a hole off another Johnson beauty to tie it up at 30-apiece.
With less than six minutes on the clock, Sharks veteran Dale Finucane was called out by the referee for a hip-drop on Warriors fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and promptly sent to the bin in a major blow for the hosts.
He is facing a three-match ban for the illegal tackle.
Minutes later, a chaotic sequence saw Cronulla put on a fifth-tackle, short-side raid in which the ball, after several hot potato offloads, ended up loose in the centre of the field and bouncing back towards the halfway line.
Curran toed it forward and jostled for it shoulder-to-shoulder with Sharks Royce Hunt and Matt Moylan.
Moylan ended up with it, however, the whistle controversially sounded due to Hunt being deemed to have pushed Curran in the back during the contest.
From 36 metres out and centre-field, former-Shark Johnson nailed the penalty to miraculously give the Warriors their first lead of the contest with 21 seconds left.
The theatrics were far from over, however.
A short kick-off forced a Warriors error which they were penalised for after Johnson touched the ball in an offside position.
With the siren seconds from sounding, reigning Dally M Medallist Hynes had the chance to send the game to golden-point with a penalty goal from 32 metres out on the left touchline but sprayed it across the face as the Warriors held one for one of their greatest ever wins.
Johnson was superb against his former-side assisting on two tries and kicking for 676 metres to go along with a game-winning penalty goal whilst Nicoll-Klokstad ran for a team-high 207 metres from 24 carries and broke nine tackles.
For the Sharks, Talakai assisted on a trio of tries and ran for 150 metres from 15 carries whilst Jesse Ramien ran for a game-high 208 metres with six tackle breaks.
Now with just two wins from their opening five, the Sharks will enjoy a week off next week before hosting the Roosters on the following Friday evening.
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