By Richard Becht at Gisborne Rugby Park
The Vodafone Warriors needed a Tuimoala Lolohea penalty and a late Ngataua Hukatai try to snatch a come-from-behind 16-12 win over Cronulla in Saturday's historic 14th-round New South Wales Cup clash in Gisborne.
Playing in front of an outstanding turn-out of 6000-plus local fans, the Vodafone Warriors were behind for most of the contest.
After being 6-12 behind at the break a second half Dominique Peyroux try narrowed the margin but Lolohea couldn't convert enabling the Sharks to hold a precarious 12-10 advantage.
With 10 minutes left Lolohea gave his side a shot at glory with a penalty before Hukatai's try took the Vodafone Warriors into the lead for the first time.
In the dying stages a 40-20 handed the Sharks a final chance to take the two competition points but the Vodafone Warriors were resolute on defence to close out a vital victory on a memorable occasion; it was a win which lifted the side into the top four for ther first time this season.
Earlier Lolohea, switched to fullback after being named in the halves, scored his side's first try following Nathan Stapleton's opening strike for the Sharks.
Lolohea's move to fullback resulted in Steve Waetford starting in the halves. In other changes from the side named on Tuesday, Hukatai replaced Jarrod Tua on the wing, Agnatius Paasi started at prop instead of Upu Poching and Michael Ki was promoted from the bench to the second row.
The Vodafone Warriors' success in Gisborne marked an impressive recovery from their 0-28 defeat by lowly Canterbury-Bankstown a week earlier, lifting them to 19 points and a solid position on the points table.
They now have eight wins, a draw and five losses from their first 14 matches, an impressive record given 10 of those games have been played Auckland.
They'll be in Auckland for just the fifth time this season when they face the Wyong Roos in the club's Mount Smart Stadium triple header next Saturday while the Sharks will host Manly at Remondis Stadium on Saturday .
New Zealand Warriors 16 (T Lolohea, D Peyroux, N Hukutai tries; T Lolohea 2 goals) def. Cronulla Sharks 12 (N Stapleton, J Gagan tries; N Stapleton 2 goals) at Gisborne Rugby Park.