An untimely brain fade from Andrew Fifita in the loss to the Warriors has been described as symbolic of Cronulla's s NRL mid-season meltdown by coach John Morris.
Fifita's 67th-minute charge on a defenceless Lachlan Burr proved the decisive moment of a fluctuating contest in rainswept Wellington on Friday, with the fiery Sharks prop sent to the sin bin.
The hosts also bagged two points from the penalty to draw level before Blake Green's late field goal consigned Cronulla to a 19-18 loss, their fifth on the trot.
The last time they endured such a streak was their wooden spoon campaign of 2014.
Morris said to climb out of a steep hole, they simply need to play smarter.
"Andrew's our spiritual leader, he absolutely loves the team and tries to lead from the front but sometimes you've got to think with your head before your heart," he said.
"Unfortunately he got that intent mixed up there with his game smarts and we got our pants pulled down.
"Time over again he'd probably just stay in the system as we'd practised and not shoot out and whack that bloke."
Sharks could be sitting as low as 13th and up to four points outside the top eight by the end of round 17, representing a nosedive over the last month.
Four of their five losses have been by two or less points but Morris said they've had themselves to blame too often, including the fumbling, ill-disciplined outing in Wellington.
While some of the nine penalties against Cronulla were questioned by Morris, he said others were senseless, along with the some of the basic errors when trying to escape their own half.
"We gave away six points from penalty goals, you just can't do that in the NRL.
"The boys understand where we're at now with our season. We've been punished for a couple of close losses that we certainly should have won."
Morris said injured backs Josh Morris (nose) and Josh Dugan (hamstring) could be fit for Thursday's match against North Queensland but the short turnaround will probably count against Wade Graham's return (hamstring).