The Warriors have sent an ominous statement to the rest of the NRL after dismantling the Sharks in a clinical display.
After Sharks star Nicho Hynes scored the first try of the match, the Warriors rammed home eight of their own to run out 44-12 winners in New Zealand.
The performance caught the eye of many watching, with Panthers great Greg Alexander declaring the Warriors a “top four side” on the back of their sublime play.
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“It was almost error-free,” he said on Fox League’s coverage.
“When you’ve got a side that knows exactly what they’re doing with the ball and they play with purpose and a bit of grit defensively, if they control that much of the footy they can beat anyone.
“They are that sort of football team. On the back of that performance today, I’m putting them in the top four.”
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak registered a double, while Rocco Berry, Addin Fonua-Blake, Luke Metcalf, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Josh Curran and Adam Pompey also hit the scoreboard for the Warriors.
The win did not come without some concern for the Warriors though, as the ageless Shaun Johnson was forced off the field inside the final 10 minutes.
Johnson assisted on three of the Warriors’ eight tries for the afternoon, before coming up hobbling 13 minutes out from full time.
The 32-year-old dished off a pass and was met by the on-rushing Toby Rudolf, whose shin appeared to make contact with Johnson’s, causing the Warriors playmaker to hit the turf.
Johnson remained on the field for five minutes after the clash with Rudolf before eventually being taken off when the result was beyond doubt.
“It’s a smart decision from the Warriors coaching staff getting Shaun out of there,” said Michael Ennis on commentary at the time.
“He’s been in demolition mode this afternoon. His ball-playing was immaculate and the majority of those (points) were on the back of the No.7.”
Cronulla started the match well, with Hynes scoring the first try of the afternoon, but were soon stunned as Johnson and dummy half Wayde Egan ran riot.
Johnson and Egan had their fingerprints on everything, as the Warriors ripped off four tries in a staggering 11-minute onslaught to go into the sheds with a 22-6 lead.
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“That period after the 20-minute mark, it really put the blowtorch on Cronulla,” Ennis said.
“That was where Egan and Johnson did their damage, particularly attacking Cronulla’s left-hand side.”
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Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon’s half-time talk proved to be inspired initially as Cronulla came out of the gates looking the more aggressive side.
Cronulla went close twice as Thomas Hazelton was denied a try after a Bunker review, before Ronaldo Mulitalo was denied in the corner after a brilliant try-saving effort from Johnson.
However, the Warriors showed their mettle under new coach Andrew Webster, holding steady under the Sharks pressure before responding with four tries in the second half.
While the Warriors were impressive, the result was another hit against the Sharks, who have struggled against top-eight opponents all season long.
“The difference between these two sides, the football the Warriors play and the resilience they have, you can’t even compare it to the Sharks,” Alexander said.
“The Sharks have got a hell of a long way to go before they’re going to trouble any top eight sides, which has been their issue in the last 24 months.”
The win lifted the Warriors into the top four, one spot ahead of the Sharks. The Warriors will stay at home next week when they host the Raiders, while the Sharks will host the Sea Eagles.
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