NRL 2020: Shaun Johnson, Cronulla Sharks end NZ Warriors' playoff hopes with try blitz

Forward Toby Rudolf has rubbed salt into NZ Warriors' wounds, spearheading a late Cronulla try blitz to extinguish their slim NRL playoff hopes. 

Rudolf was supposed to cross the Tasman next season to join the Auckland-based side, but has had a change of heart and will remain with the Sharks.

On Sunday night, he re-affirmed his allegiances with the go-ahead try to help Cronulla clinch the eighth and final post-season spot with a 22-14 result over their nearest challengers.

The outcome leaves the Warriors six points outside the top eight with only two games remaining, snuffing their mathematical chances of moving on.

With six minutes remaining, the Warriors held a two-point lead and needed to defend fiercely to keep their playoff dream alive.

But former Warriors star Shaun Johnson surged through a gap and as the defence scrambled to adjust, Rudolf charged onto a short pass close to the line - there was no stopping him.

Johnson's conversion gave Cronulla a four-point advantage, which grew to eight moments later, when Auckland-born winger Ronaldo Mulitalo dived over in the left corner for his second try of the game, dashing any chance of a Warriors miracle. 

The Sharks grabbed the early advantage and ran up a 12-0 first-half lead, with wingers Sione Katoa and Mulitalo crossing for tries. Johnson assisted on both touchdowns with clever kicks behind the Warriors defensive line.

Just before the break, forward Jack Murchie ranged inside captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and charged over to open the Warriors' account.

NRL 2020: Shaun Johnson, Cronulla Sharks end NZ Warriors' playoff hopes with try blitz

When Peta Hiku put Adam Pompey over in the corner soon after the restart, Chanel Harris-Tavita locked up the scores with his sideline conversion and momentum seemed to favour the Warriors.

Midway through the second half, Kiwi Briton Nikora was found guilty of a high tackle on Warriors counterpart Daniel Alvaro and Harris-Tavita slotted a penalty from 42 metres out to put his side into the lead

.But the Warriors were unable to take advantage of several other scoring opportunities over the final 20 minutes and ultimately failed to repel Cronulla's fast finish.

They now face Canberra Raiders next Sunday, with Manly Sea Eagles awaiting in their final outing of the season.

Warriors 14 (Murchie & Pompey tries; Harris-Tavita 2 conversions & penalty) Sharks 22 (Katoa, Mulitalo 2 & Rudolf tries; Johnson 2 conversions & penalty)