By Nathan Beuman
The New Zealand Warriors have tasted success for the first time on Australian soil in 2014, taking down the Cronulla Sharks 44-6 at Remondis Stadium.
Despite the late inclusion of Mahe Fonua and Junior Moors into the starting lineup, the Warriors physical forward pack was just too strong for the defending Premiers.
With their first real attacking opportunity of the game, the Warriors spread it out to the right, with a late offload from Dominique Peyroux finding Ngani Laumape, who reached out to score and get the visitors on the board after just 14 minutes.
Halfback Tuimoala Lolohea was unable to add the extra points, leaving the score at 4-0.
Cronulla made the most of great field position just ten minutes later, when a short ball from Ben Roberts off the back of a scrum found fullback Kurt Mann, who sliced his way through the Warriors line, running away to score to the left of the uprights.
Ben Roberts was able to make the easy conversion, giving Cronulla a 6-4 lead 24 minutes into the game.
It was all New Zealand from that point on, with the visitors taking advantage of numbers down their left hand edge, with a cutout ball from Lolohea finding an unmarked Jarrod Tua with nine minutes remaining in the half.
Lolohea stepped up and nailed the conversion from the sideline, putting the visitors back up 10-6.
Laumape was in again for his second of the opening half just moments later, when a no look ball from Peyroux found the winger in open space.
Lolohea was unable to add the two points, spraying the kick right, leaving the Warriors with a handy 14-6 lead heading into the break.
New Zealand started the second half just in the manner they ended the first; with points, when David Fusitua somehow managed to get a ball down in the corner despite immense pressure from Jacob Gagan.
The decision to relieve Lolohea of the goal kicking duties proved genius, when Ngani Laumape nailed the sideline conversion to give NZ a 20-6 lead just three minutes into the second half.
The Warriors forwards had the visitors rolling down the field from the ensuing kickoff, when Siliva Havili burrowed his way over from dummy-half, before Laumape converted his second try in only a matter of minutes to put New Zealand up 26-6.
To make the possibility of a comeback even tougher for the Sharks, workhorse Slade Griffin was assisted from the field in the 55th minute with a knee injury.
Further compounding the loss, a series of dummies from captain Steve Waetford had the Sharks defence in tatters, when the fullback managed to get around Fonua and get the ball down to put the Warriors up 32-6 following another Laumape’s conversion.
Off the back of a penalty that had the Warriors in great field position once again, Havili popped a ball up to Sam Lisone, who just fell over the line in the 65th minute, putting the result beyond doubt.
Laumape continued his perfect day with the boot, knocking over the simplest of conversion, to put the scores at 38-6.
The Warriors eighth and final try of the afternoon came six minutes from time, when a cutout pass from Lolohea found John Palavi, who strolled between two Cronulla defenders to collect his first of the afternoon.
Laumape converted the try, ending his perfect afternoon with the boot, but more importantly sealing a 44-6 victory for the New Zealand side.
The Warriors return home to Eden Park this Sunday and will host the Bulldogs while the Sharks head north to Brooky to take on Manly.
New Zealand Warriors 44 (N Laumape 2, D Fusitua, J Tua, S Havili, S Waetford, S Lisone, J Palavi tries; N Laumape 5, T Lolohea goals) def. Cronulla Sharks 6 (K Mann try; B Roberts goal) at Remondis Stadium.