NRL 2023: New Zealand Warriors Return with 20 Points in NRL Wild Thriller Cronulla Sharks

The New Zealand Warriors will finish the fifth round of the NRL season second in the rankings after a remarkable 32-30 win over the Cronulla Sharks.

The Warriors have only lost one game this season and closed a 20-0 gap in the first 20 minutes.

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While it wasn’t the wildest comeback after the Sharks dealt damage early and left plenty of time to recover, it wasn’t the Warriors the NRL was used to.

The Kiwis have reached the final once since their last grand final in 2011, but have played as world champions against one of the competition’s heavyweights.

The sides were locked out for 30-all over the last 10 minutes when Sharks’ staunch Dale Finucane Sin was thrown out for a controversial hip tackle.

Warriors linebacker Shawn Johnson then failed to touch the kick, giving the Sharks life in the pouring rain.

But the Warriors called a penalty when Sharks forward Royce Hunt was thought to have pulled Warrior Josh Curran.

This allowed Johnson to bring the guests ahead.

“Welcome back to the big time, Shawn Johnson… The Warriors in 2023 are a different beast,” Fox League’s Andrew Voss said.

But the match didn’t end there when Johnson was penalized for being offside while trying to get the ball after a kickoff.

But Nicho Hines was unable to react after the siren, striking wide of the mark.

After a full day’s work, Yvonne Sampson said, “These last few minutes have been absolute bedlam.”

Corey Parker added: “It’s mind-blowing, isn’t it? They came back in the second half and got more balls than the Sharks, playing 92 percent in terrible conditions.

“He had absolutely everything. And this is from a team that was down 20-0 after 15 minutes against the Sharks, the best attacking team in the tournament.”

Greg Alexander, who played for the Warriors in his career, said it was one of the biggest wins in New Zealand NRL history.

“This is about as good as it gets,” he said. “I think Vossi said well that the Warriors fans will go through the best games in their history and that will be in the mix. It was an incredible victory. The circumstances are incredible.”

The still buff Sean Johnson was in his element.

“It wasn’t in his head,” he said.

“Honestly, we were talking at halftime, do we really believe we can go out and do this?

“We said something funny at halftime, bro. We thought we’d tell our grandkids one day, let’s go and party.

“Damn, we are so tough, bro. I love being a part of it, it’s such a good feeling. There is obviously so much to like, so much to dislike.

“They are a good friend, just delighted, what a feeling.”

Johnson said this season’s results show it’s a different Warriors team.

“Everyone who watches at home, everyone who watches here sees the difference in us,” Johnson said. “I think everyone sees it now. We are no longer unknown, now people see it, so the point is that we do not calm down and we do not calm down. We are going home, working hard and will be back next week.”

The old Warriors teams would have lost 50 after falling 20-0 down in the first 20 minutes, but it’s a completely different team under coach Andrew Webster who makes them play with a new sense of faith.

With Martin Gabor, NCA News Feed

Originally published as New Zealand Warriors score 20 in wild NRL thriller