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Give me a 70-10 Anzac Day loss any day.

The Warriors’ spineless – in more ways than one – 29-10 defeat to a Cronulla side that had a player sent off in the 16th minute and another sin-binned during the second half was as harrowing as anything the team has put its supporters through since 1995.

The fact they became the first side to lose to a 12-man opponent since 2008 was bad enough, but the blundering, insipid way the Warriors went about it made the drubbing so much worse.

Reece Walsh was clotheslined WWF-style by Sharks fullback Will Kennedy, who received an early shower in a brave but correct call from the officials. Walsh then exploded to lay on two tries in the ensuing five minutes and give the Warriors a 10-6 lead after a shaky start…but that burst was ultimately trademark flatter-to-deceive fluff.

The Sharks knuckled down, played smart, played hard and took their chances to score the last 23 points of the match. Despite the number advantage, the Warriors couldn’t muster so much as a line-break after the 21st minute in one of the dumbest, impatient attacking displays of all time.

Struggling to create overlaps against a shorthanded defence (and blowing it on the few occasions they did), the Warriors nevertheless managed to get caught short themselves repeatedly – as if they were playing against 14.

In a performance brimming with incompetence throughout the team sheet (Walsh and Matt Lodge aside), it’s hard not to shine a harsh spotlight on Shaun Johnson’s performance. The 12-man scenario was custom-made for a game manager of his experience and quality, yet his option-taking, execution and poise was as bad as anyone out there – and certainly more costly.

The Sharks blitzed the Warriors’ left-side defence in the eighth minute to post a long-range try finished off by Nicho Hynes. The signs were ominous with the hosts doing everything better and quicker.

But Kennedy’s send-off immediately turned the game on its head as Reece Walsh exploited both of Cronulla’s stretched edges in the space of four minutes.

Shaun Johnson squared up the defence and linked with Walsh, who arced a beautiful ball over the top for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to dive in acrobatically in the corner.

Taking a Lodge offload near halfway a couple of possessions later, Walsh tore threw a gap and popped a wonderful flick-pass after being ankle-tapped, leading to Viliami Vailea’s second try from a Daejarn Asi kick in as many games.

Eliesa Katoa’s infuriating fumble carried on a recent trend of Warrior mistakes after points, however, and the Sharks camped near the opposition line for six sets until second-row brute Teig Wilton easily burst through the tackle attempt of Johnson and Rocco Berry for a 29th-minute try.

The shorthanded Sharks comfortably had the better of the remainder of the first half, stretching the Warriors on multiple occasions and going very close to extending their 12-10 lead before the break.

Vailea bombed a try two minutes into the second half and things went south after a Johnson drop off Tevaga’s second shithouse pass of the night in their next possession.

Connor Tracey raced over out wide for 16-10, but the Sharks begged the Warriors to take the ascendancy when Jesse Ramien was binned (and could easily have been sent off) for a shoulder to Euan Aitken’s head.

The Warriors arguably produced their worst footy of the day when they were playing against 11. The attack was a rushed, amateurish shambles – and they were lucky not to get further behind.

Cronulla dominated proceedings after getting Ramien back. Tracey had a double in the 66th minute after another compressed-defence atrocity on the Warriors’ right-hand side, Hynes sealed the win with a field goal with seven minutes left and Sione Katoa put the icing on a famous Shark Park triumph courtesy a try that left Warriors sprawling on the turf and clutching and legs and throats.

The technically-deficient aspect of the Warriors’ loss was so very glaring, but the part that is hardest to cop is lack of energy and any sign of mental fortitude. The performance reeked of a team that is either poorly coached in the fundamentals and has been sent out with a defective game-plan, or is uninspired by its coaching staff, or both.

Everything was geared towards the Warriors going 5-4 thanks to a piece of send-off fortune – but all that match did was remind us we’re lucky our club isn’t 1-7, given the jammy nature of some low-qual wins so far.

A Magic Round showdown with Souths shapes as an even harder bounce-back stage than after Anzac Day. Marcelo Montoya will be back – timely, given Berry and Vailea clearly aren’t first-graders at the moment – and Tohu Harris, who is sorely needed, could return, with Katoa and Jack Murchie begging for a jersey numbered 18-24 after Sunday’s effort.

As for poor old Nathan Brown…I wouldn’t signing a rental lease in Auckland just yet if I were him.

Cronulla Sharks 29 (Connor Tracey 2, Nicho Hynes, Teig Wilton, Jesse Ramien tries; Hynes 4 goals; Hynes field goal) defeated Warriors 10 (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Viliami Vailea tries; Reece Walsh goal) at PointsBet Stadium.



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