NRL 2022: NZ Warriors suffer embarrassing defeat to shorthanded Cronulla Sharks

Two weeks after suffering a record defeat, NZ Warriors have somehow plumbed new depths of futility, falling 29-10 to an undermanned Cronulla Sharks.

Behind early, the Auckland side were presented a gift-wrapped opportunity to topple one of the NRL's top teams, when Sharks fullback Will Kennedy almost decapitated counterpart Reece Walsh with a crude head-high tackle and was sent off.

The Warriors immediately scored two tries through winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and centre Viliami Vailea to snatch the lead 10-6, and victory seemed almost a formality - but they were held scoreless for the remainder of the contest, while their rivals dug deep to create history.

Last time an NRL team survived a first-half sendoff to win was 2008 - until now. 

Vailea's try was a culmination of everything good about the Warriors - prop Matt Lodge offloading, Walsh breaking up midfield and finding half Daejarn Asi, who kicked ahead for his centre to score.

Perhaps lucky to avoid suspension from the Raiders game, Lodge's personal battle with Sharks opposite Dale Finucane was another small highlight, but Cronulla edged ahead before halftime, when they enjoyed six consecutive sets of possession and inevitably wore the Warriors goal-line defence down for second-rower Teig Wilton to score.

They extended their advantage to 16-10 soon after the restart, before they were further reduced to 11 men for 10 minutes, when centre Jesse Ramien hit Warriors second-rower Euan Aitken with a shoulder to the head that saw him sin-binned.

Surely, the Warriors could capitalise on this mismatch - but they couldn't.

Soon after Ramien rejoined the action, Sharks winger Connor Tracey had a try double and, in the dying minutes, second-rower Briton Nikora added further salt to the wounds with a try that left distraught defenders sprawled around him.

One week after kicking his side to a thrilling Golden Point victory over Canberra Raiders, Warriors half Shaun Johnson could not guide them home against opponents that should have been at their mercy.

By contrast, Sharks half Nico Hynes also had to cover Kennedy's vacant fullback position, but masterminded an incredible performance that left NRL commentators speechless. 


Cronulla Sharks 29 (Hynes, Nikora, Tracey 2 & Wilton tries, Hynes 4 conversions & field goal) NZ Warriors 10 (Watene-Zelezniak & Vailea tries, Walsh conversion)