The NYC Cronulla Sharks have sealed a 22 points to 20 win over the Junior Warriors in their Round 21 clash at Mt. Smart Stadium.
The win is the first for the Sharks U20s side since their win at Newcastle, and their second against the Warriors this year having defeated the New Zealanders 23-22 in Round 9 earlier this season.
With both sides coming off last-start defeats, the Sharks and Warriors both looked like they had brought their Round 20 form into Round 21, as errors and ill discipline plagued the game’s rhythm early doors.
After a scrappy opening first 15 minutes, Sharks fullback Josh Addo-Carr sparked the game to life when his piece of individual brilliance sent the side to the lead.
The flyer collected his last tackle chip and chase to beat a host of Warriors defenders, in giving the Cronulla side a six-point advantage.
As the hosts began to control possession and work their way back into the match, poor marker defence from the Sharks saw Warriors hooker Casey Lafaele cross for two tries in as many minutes in taking the score to 10-6.
A regular in the Sharks halfback role this season, Bradley Deitz was injected into the contest from the interchange bench and made an almost-immediate impact.
With the side down by four points just minutes before the half-time interval, Deitz found himself in possession and attacked the line, stepping his way through the Warriors’ defence to score under the posts.
Jaiden Brown made no mistake from in front of the sticks, and the Sharks took a slender 12-10 lead into the sheds.
Full of running after the break, Warriors lock Jazz Tevaga broke the Cronulla line to link with fullback Bradley Abbey who streaked away to score under the uprights.
The Warriors up by four, Addo-Carr again made his presence felt when he tore the hosts’ defence line to shreds. The fullback unselfishly linked with five-eighth Brown, who did the rest in running 50 metres to score untouched adjacent to the posts.
But having fallen two points in arrears, the hosts sought to build pressure on the Cronulla line – and that they did – in earning themselves three consecutive sets of six.
In their continued pursuit of points, the Warriors were denied a fourth repeat set when Curtis Scott saved face, returning a grubber kick to the field of play to save his side defending their line once more.
Proving his worth at both ends of the field, Scott scored a decisive try to send the Sharks out to a 22-16 lead with 13 minutes to play. Brown was unable to convert from the right touchline, in what was his first and only blemish with the boot.
The Warriors ran in a late try through fullback Abbey in what looked certain to tie the game at 22-apiece, but Aupouri could not convert and the Sharks hung on for a nail-biting 22-20 point victory.
CRONULLA SHARKS 22 – TRIES: Addo-Carr, Deitz, Brown, Scott | GOALS: Clarke (1/1), Brown (2/3)
Def. NZ WARRIORS 20 – TRIES: Lafaele (2), Abbey (2) | GOALS: Aupouri (2/4)