Raiders v Sharks
Raiders player Josh Dugan scores a try. Photo: Melissa Adams
The Canberra Raiders must be sick of the sight of Todd Carney after the talented playmaker again wreaked havoc on his old club.
Carney improved his record against the team where he spent his first five seasons to 3-1 as the Cronulla Sharks belted the Raiders 44-22 at Canberra Stadium yesterday.
Carney's pinpoint kicking game and poise in attack was crucial to the Sharks bringing up their sixth straight win, along with rocketing the Goulburn junior into red-hot favoritism for the NSW No.6 jersey.
Raider David Shillington is tackled by Sharks player Jeremy Smith. Photo: Melissa Adams
''You always want to win against your former club, because there's still a little bit of, it's not hatred, but you sort of pride yourself on beating the team that you leave,'' Carney said.
''I've got a lot of close friends here and my family are only down the road.
''You cop a little bit of stick from the fans, but who doesn't when you leave somewhere?''
Carney was sacked by the Raiders in 2008 for a string of off-field incidents.
Two years later, he returned to the NRL with the Sydney Roosters, getting the wood on the Raiders in both games in 2010.
The Raiders turned the tables on Carney last year before the 25-year-old parted ways with the Roosters because of another off-field misdemeanor.
He has revelled in a change of scenery with the Sharks, who are in the midst of their most successful streak in a decade.
Carney's sublime form hasn't gone unnoticed, returning for Country last week and now is the front-runner for the five-eighth position for NSW in next month's State of Origin opener in Melbourne.
''I've always had belief we were going to have a good year, but it blows me away a little bit to win six in a row,'' Carney said. ''I've been priding myself on being consistent.''
On the other hand, the Raiders have lost their past two to slip to 3-5 for the season ahead of a daunting trip to Brookvale Oval to face defending premier Manly next Sunday.
Carney's ability to find open space with his boot and force repeat sets strangled the Raiders into submission.
The Raiders had just 40 per cent of possession, made 116 more tackles and, unsurprisingly given their extra workload, missed almost twice as many tackles as the Sharks (27 to 14).
Raiders coach David Furner said his players lacked urgency when put under pressure on their own try line.
''Those last-play options where they got a repeat set and they went to the air on the last play, I don't think we were urgent enough,'' Furner said.
''We needed more numbers there, and they came up with some good tries through the air.
''Possession in the end was too much.''
Furner said he planned on sticking with the same 17 players against the Sea Eagles, with Kiwi international Bronson Harrison the only change, providing the second-rower recovers from an ankle injury.
It was the first game the Raiders had played since captain Terry Campese suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Stand-in skipper David Shillington said the Raiders missed Campese's calming influence and leadership but couldn't use his absence as an excuse.
''Where we lacked today wasn't anything to do with Campo, we need to pick up our defence and play consistently throughout the 80 minutes,'' Shillington said. ''We've got to adjust to being without him now.
''It's up to the rest of us to step up a notch where we are lacking without him out there.''
Cronulla captain Paul Gallen, who had another mammoth game with 203 metres from 23 carries, is the only survivor from the last time the Sharks embarked on a winning streak this long in 2002. They are now outright third on the ladder.
''Far out, I don't feel that old to be honest,'' Gallen, 30, said.
''Opportunities like these don't come around all the time so we've got to make the most of it.''
AT A GLANCE
NRL, round 5: CRONULLA SHARKS 44 (J Williams 2, C Best, J Bukuya, S Mills, J Morris, B Pomeroy, J Robson tries; T Carney 6 goals) bt CANBERRA RAIDERS 22 (J McCrone 2, J Dugan, R Robinson tries; J Croker 3 goals) at Canberra Stadium yesterday. Crowd: 12,227.