NRL: Ben Barba looked to have cost the Sharks victory in the 81st minute, but luckily, James Maloney saved the day.
ON Wednesday night, NSW five-eighth James Maloney wanted to join his Origin teammates in a very dark hole.
On Saturday night, the 30-year-old dragged Cronulla out of one with a dramatic and crucial golden-point field against the Warriors at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Maloney’s 87th minute matchwinner wobbled it’s way over the black dot to hand the Sharks a club-record equalling 11th straight win.
The thriller also reaffirmed the Sharks increasing mental fortitude and belief that they are premiership contenders as they rallied from 10-0 nil down on the scoreboard, to overcome a vastly-improved New Zealand outfit.
Alongside Origin teammates Paul Gallen, Jack Bird and Andrew Fifita, Maloney managed to train with the Sharks for just over 30-minutes in their captain’s run on Friday.
But despite the limited preparation, Maloney showed class and poise to snatch a win that coach Shane Flanagan as “brave” and “gutsy.’’
It was also the third match in a row that Maloney’s right boot proved the difference.
NRL: Sharks hooker Mick Ennis has celebrated his second try of the season in extremely unique fashion.
“He’s kicking some goals, kicking some field goals and that’s what he gets paid for,’’ Flanagan said.
“I think there’s that belief (within the team) that they’re going to hang in there and we’ll get this.
“We’ve got James with his field goal, but if not him (it’s the belief) that someone is going to do it for us, be it Val (Holmes), Andrew (Fifita), or someone else in the team will pull it out for us.
“And that’s what we did, we found a way.’’
NRL: Sam Lisone thought he was about to score his first try of his NRL career, until Luke Lewis ruined it for him.
The Sharks poor fifth tackle options hurt them early as the Warriors took advantage of field position and possession.
The home side had no right to lead 12-10 at the break, through tries to Michael Ennis and Ricky Leutele but as Flanagan said this Sharks side just seem to find a way.
“It wasn’t pretty, we didn’t execute well,’’ Flanagan said.
“It was just one of those nights that we had to fight and scrap.
“Going hard in those battles and coming out on the right side and getting the win, gives the player’s confidence.’’
NRL: Jayson Bukuya was awarded the first penalty try of the season in Cronulla’s win over the Warriors, thanks to this interference from Simon Mannering.
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden lamented a controversial penalty try awarded to Cronulla forward Jason Buukuya, which allowed the Sharks to kick out to an 18-10 lead — but refused to concede it cost his side the match.
“To me that looks like a bit of media pressure, by the looks of it,’’ McFadden said.
Sharks winger Valentine Holmes left the field in the second half with a hamstring injury and while not considered serious, is in doubt for Cronulla’s home clash with Parramatta on Saturday where they will attempt to set a new record of 12 straight wins.
CRONULLA 19 (J Bukuya M Ennis R Leutele tries; J Maloney 3 goals, J Maloney field goal) bt NZ WARRIORS 18 (B Ayshford T Leuluai J Wright tries; I Luke 3 goals) in golden-point extra time at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Referee: Grant Atkins, Matt Noyen. Crowd: 12,074.