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Warriors too strong for Sharks

17/08/2008 12:57:16 AM Comments (0)

Cronulla coach Ricky Stuart labelled the sloppy clash with the Warriors as a match unbefitting of NRL status as his side dropped out of a tie for the competition lead.

Stuart's Sharks, who came into round 23 tied for the competition lead on 32 points, were the worst perpetrators on a wet Auckland evening with 16 errors and an abysmal 26 per cent completion rate in the 18-4 loss.

The Warriors were not much better with 12 errors and 29 per cent completion of their own but it was Stuart, not opposing coach Ivan Cleary, who was left to bemoan a losing performance.

"(There were) too many mistakes tonight - fundamental mistakes," Stuart said.

"Passing out of dummy half, dropped balls on collision, bad passing just a really very poor game skill-wise.

"It was an A-grade game tonight, not a first-grade game."

With a third home victory in a row under his belt, Cleary sung the praises of his side's continued defensive resurgence that has resulted in six wins from its last seven outings.

Holder of the NRL's worst defensive record for most of the first half of the season, the Warriors have turned it around over the past two months and as a result may finish the round back in the top eight.

"Defensively we're miles ahead of where we were at the start of the year," Cleary said.

"That's come through hard work and a great attitude from the players and I guess tonight really showed that and won us the game."

Warriors captain Steve Price, who missed the first 10 rounds of the season with a hamstring injury, echoed a similar sentiment to his coach in regards to defence being the key ingredient not only to beating the Sharks, but reversing their early-season form.

"Defence won the night and it was great from our boys," Price said.

"We dropped a little bit of ball and so did they, but particularly earlier in the year if we had've done that we had tries scored against us and tonight we didn't, which goes to show the attitude from now compared to then."

There was one sour note on the night for the Warriors with talismanic fullback Wade McKinnon being placed on report for a shoulder charge to the head of Sharks hooker Isaac de Gois early in the game.

Only two weeks into his return from major knee surgery, the loss of McKinnon to suspension would be a crushing blow in the race to the playoffs but Cleary felt he had nothing to answer for.

"I'm surprised. I'm not sure what the problem was. To me, that's the sort of thing that's been happening since 1908," Cleary said.

"It wasn't late I don't think. That's my opinion."

Cronulla has a fullback concern of its own with Brett Kearney facing a spell on the sideline after a blow to his hip.

Stuart said Kearney was "not real good" after the match and may be facing two weeks on the sideline, which comes as a further blow as he has just returned from a six-week layoff with an ankle injury.

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