On Thursday, Harry Ramage ran his eye over the bottom four teams of the 2021 NRL season, and predicted how they will fare in 2022. Today I’m charged with Part 2 of the four-part series that we’ll pick up early next week.
The Warriors have overcome a wild afternoon from front-rower Kane Evans, including being sin-binned twice, to claim a comeback 18-16 NRL victory over Cronulla at Cbus Super Stadium.
Evans was binned late in the first half of Saturday’s game after being baited into two left jabs from renowned sledger Will Chambers – with the Sharks turning a six-point deficit into a 10-point lead.
The Warriors fought back to level the contest at 16-all midway through the second half, only for Evans to again lose his cool and be penalised for a head slam on Chambers.
Despite his mindless performance the rest of the Warriors held their nerve, with a 67th-minute Reece Walsh penalty goal proving the difference in a spiteful affair.
Seven players finished the game on report – Evans twice, cited immediately after his return to the field in the second half for a dangerous tackle on Ronaldo Mulitalo.
The Evans brain snaps did not cost his side, however, who move within four points of the top eight and remain a mathematical chance to make the finals.
Cronulla blew an opportunity to go back up to eighth, dropping out of the top half of the ladder for the first time in six rounds.
Warriors coach Nathan Brown said he was disappointed in some of his senior players who had engaged in a war of words with Chambers.
“Will can engage in it and can still play reasonably well, and the old blokes that were engaging with it where not playing well,” he said.
“It had a bad effect on our football team.
“We leaked two tries because Will was a bit smarter than us. That was the disappointing thing.
“Will was a bit smarter than a couple of our experienced blokes.
“One of them tidied themselves in the second half and Kane had his moments, but we got the win at the end of the day.”
Cronulla caretaker coach Josh Hannay, who had criticised Chambers’ verbal attack on Manly utility Dylan Walker last week, kept his power dry on Saturday.
“The team that wins has the last laugh, don’t they,” he said.
“I don’t want to comment anymore on the whole sledging thing.”
The Warriors had led for most of the first half on the Gold Coast after Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s fourth-minute opener.
Cronulla levelled after Connor Tracey crossed but Evans’ ill-discipline kickstarted a ghastly four-minutes for the Warriors, which included a Briton Nikora try and an 85-metre effort from Kennedy.
However, the Sharks – without injured duo Matt Moylan and Shaun Johnson – failed to go on with the job in the second half, with a Walsh try closing the gap when he latched onto a Josh Curran offload in the 56th minute.
Euan Aitken then tied the game a second time when he crossed soon after, before Walsh nailed the go-ahead points after a crusher tackle by Nikora.