Sharks run riot to thrash Warriors

The Cronulla Sharks have recorded an unbelievable 37-6 win over the New Zealand Warriors in front of 11,307 diehard fans at Remondis Stadium – a 61-point turnaround following their last start shellacking at the hands of the Knights.

Returning from calf and facial injuries, Cronulla halfback Jeff Robson proved the perfect foil for a Todd Carney masterclass – the five-eighth barely looking recognisable after his miserable efforts last weekend as he churned out a man of the match performance in the Sharks’ first win of the 2014 season. Winger Nathan Stapleton was the main beneficiary of Carney's brilliant performance, crossing for four tries.

The Warriors, winless in their last five appearances against the Sharks, had no answers for a rampant Cronulla side during an unhappy homecoming for former Sharks Chad Townsend and Jason Bukuya.

With the wind on the side in the first half, the Sharks scored three first half tries on their way to a 16-0 half-time lead. Despite the Warriors having several opportunities to turn plays into points, the Sharks continued where they left off after the first 40 minutes.

In what appeared to be a brilliant combination born, Carney threw his second huge cut-out pass of the afternoon for Stapleton's second try five minutes after the break – the five-eighth more than a handful when it came to his clinical passing game.

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Stapleton's right-edge partner Blake Ayshford then found his way to his first try of 2014. Off the back of solid lead up by fullback Michael Gordon, Ayshford extended the home side's lead to 26.

Stapleton thanked his lucky stars in the 58th minute, a pinpoint accurate bomb from Robson aiding the winger to soar above his opposite Manu Vatuvei to complete his hat-trick and kill any remaining hope the Warriors had to turn it around.

Carney added to his impressive showing with a field-goal in the 70th minute before taking a late intercept near his own try-line to set up Stapleton for his fourth try of the afternoon and an exceptional 37-0 scoreline.

Warriors winger Vatuvei added a consolation try in the last thirty seconds of the match in what was their only scoring play of the afternoon.

While the Sharks went on to win, the opening proceedings of the first half were a grind, with either side struggling to capitalise on their chances – the strong wind having a say on how the game was dictated.

With either sides both having scoring opportunities close to their respective try-lines, it was a huge kick for touch by Carney following a Warriors penalty that got the ball rolling for the home side.  The Sharks scored the opening points of the game for only the second time this season thanks to Carney’s influence.

The five-eighth chimed into a Sharks backline movement that started from the opposite side of the paddock with a superb 25 metre cut-out pass to the right wing and to the waiting arms of Stapleton for his first try of the afternoon and a 4-0 lead to the home side.

Seven minutes later, the Sharks went back-to-back following a barging run over the try-line by Tinirau Arona. Arona – who was promoted to the starting line-up just prior to kick-off at the expense of the more experienced Chris Heighington – scored his second try of the season to secure a 10-0 lead for the Sharks.

On the back of conceding five penalties, five errors and conjuring a possession rate of a mere 34 per cent, the Sharks made the visiting side pay thanks to the slick ball skills of Carney. The No.6 changed it up this time around, flexing his array of skills with a soft ball off his hip to Sam Tagataese.

Crossing for his side's third try of the afternoon, Tagataese made an immediate impact off the bench in the 27th minute. Minutes later, Jonathan Wright was at the forefront for two try-scoring opportunities gone begging – yet the game was regardless well in Cronulla’s keeping at the break.

Sharks 37 (Stapleton 4, Arona, Ayshford, Tagataese Tries; Gordon 4 Goals; Carney FG) def Warriors 6 (Vatuvei Try; Johnson Goal). Crowd: 11,307.