The New Zealand Warriors have once again contrived to reach a new low in terms of on-field decision-making by losing to the Cronulla Sharks despite having a two-man advantage for 10 minutes of the second half in their 29-10 defeat in Sydney.
Once William Kennedy was sent off in the 17th minute for a horror high tackle on fullback Reece Hodge, the Warriors were in the box seat, a sense that would have grown in the second half when Jesse Ramien was sent to the bin and put on report for a full-blooded shoulder to the face of Euan Aitken.
And yet, the Sharks responded to both setbacks with far greater composure and intelligence than the Warriors showed for the entire 80 minutes.
The Warriors were disorganised on attack and clueless on defence despite their numerical advantage – it was another embarrassing setback a week after their golden point win over the Canberra Raiders and with the echoes of their stunning record collapse to the Melbourne Storm still reverberating.
They appeared on track when Dallin Watene-Zeleznik immediately scored in the right corner to narrow the score to 6-4 following Kennedy’s dismissal for what the commentators described as an “old-fashioned coathanger” that lifted Hodge clean off his feet.
Watene-Zeleznik’s score was a reply to an early long-range converted try for Nicholas Hynes, and Hodge was again in the action minutes later, this time giving a stunning no-look offload to Daejarn Asi, who cleverly kicked ahead for Viliami Vailea to score a converted try.
But rather than take control the match from then on, the Warriors instead began to lose their composure. They gifted the Sharks six sets in a row, a wealth of possession which ended with Teig Wilton scoring a converted try which allowed the home side to regain the lead 12-10, an advantage they took to halftime.
The Warriors had a chance to hit back straight after the break but Vailea dropped an inside pass from Adam Pompey with the line open, and the Sharks, needing no second invitation as they continue their hunt for a place in the top four, added to their score with a simple move allowing Connor Tracey to outflank the Warriors defence.
The Warriors fluffed another attacking chance when Jack Murchie failed to pass to an unmarked Vailea, with Tracey scoring another for the Sharks when he stepped inside a weak Shaun Johnson tackle attempt.
Ramien, who the commentary team believed may have been sent off rather than sinbinned for his shoulder to Aitken’s face had the Sharks not already been down to 12 men, then added insult to injury by dotting down with four minutes remaining.
A clever Hynes field goal was the final nail in the Warriors coffin.