Ball and all: Cronulla's Andrew Fifita is wrapped up by the Warriors' Jayson Bukuya. Photo: Getty Images
Todd Carney may have raised a few eyebrows when he stated that Jeff Robson was the player the Sharks had missed most.
Sharks halfback Jeff Robson tries to break free of the Warriors. Photo: Getty Images
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Stapleton(4), Arona, Tagataese, Ayshford||Tries||7||Tries||1||Players||Vatuvei|
|Players||Gordon 4/7 (57%)||Conversions||4||Conversions||1||Players||Johnson 1/1 (100%)|
|Players||Penalty goals||0||Penalty goals||0||Players|
|Players||Carney 1/1 (100%)||Field goals||1||Field goals||0||Players|
With the likes of Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Anthony Tupou and Beau Ryan sidelined it was some compliment for Carney’s scrum base partner, ahead of his return from a cheekbone injury to play his first game of the season in front of 11307 people.
But Robson showed his worth, helping steer Cronulla to their first win of the season with a 37-6 victory against the Warriors at Remondis Stadium on Saturday afternoon. While Robson eased his way back into action, his sheer presence sparked the Sharks to life. It took some much-needed pressure off Carney too, and allowed the club’s star pivot to concentrate on his running game instead of burdening himself with organising.
The pair combined to gift winger Nathan Stapleton a quartet of four-pointers as Cronulla raced in seven tries. Their 37 points was more than the 28 they had scored in the opening month of the season.
Carney wasted little time to shine. After the Sharks failed to score against the Knights last start, they took just 10 minutes to break their point-scoring drought when Stapleton crossed in the corner. He benefited from a Carney 30 metre pass which cut out two Sharks teammates and caught the Warriors outside men short for Stapleton to stroll over the tryline.
As the penalties worked against the Warriors, the Sharks capitalised. Ill-discipline and rookie mistakes – such as early tackle errors and failing to find touch from a penalty – hurt the visitors. A 5-1 penalty count swung against them too, as the Sharks opened up a 16-0 half-time lead with a strong breeze behind them.
Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita tried to put a week of distraction behind him as he returned to the field for the first time since his contract breakdown with the Bulldogs. Fifita was more solid than outstanding but was heavily involved, overcoming two early handling errors while Michael Gordon looked dangerous with the ball from fullback. Nathan Friend made 65 tackles in a gallant effort for the Warriors.
Tinirau Arona scored the Sharks' second try before a rampaging Sam Tagataese showed too much might for a flimsy Warriors defence to open up a 16-0 lead. The Sharks should have been in front by more, had winger Jonathan Wright held on to a regulation cut-out pass from Wade Graham with the try-line wide open in the later stages of the half.
Carney almost replicated his first-half heroics when he threw another cut-out pass to hit Stapleton to open the scoring five minutes after half-time. While the pass wasn’t as crisp as his first half effort, it was still good enough to catch the Warriors left edge short as the Sharks capitalised on the Warriors' failure to complete their opening two sets to begin the second half.
The Warriors left edge of Chad Townsend, Dane Nielsen and Manu Vatuvei continued to struggle as Blake Ayshford cruised through to extend Cronulla’s lead to 26. Again, it was Cronulla’s right side which caused the damage when Stapleton crossed for his third to outleap Vatuvei and claim a Robson bomb.
A Carney intercept saw him race 60 metres before he off-loaded to give Stapleton his fourth try.