By Nathan Beuman
The Cronulla Sharks have sent a warning sign to the rest of the competition, with a comprehensive 46-10 victory over the Newtown Jets at Remondis Stadium.
The Sharks forwards dominated the battle up front, with David Fifita and Tim Robinson running riot, laying the platform for a commanding performance by the experienced halves pairing of Daniel Holdsworth and Ben Hampton.
The return of Nathan Gardner pre-match was a big boost for the home side, playing his hand in a number of tries and well and truly cementing his spot at fullback.
The Sharks opened the scoring in the third minute, when a pass over the top from Daniel Holdsworth found Jacob Gagan, with the winger diving over untouched.
Nathan Stapleton was unable to convert the try, leaving the scores at 4-0.
Some sloppy marker defence from the Jets ten minutes later led to Cronulla’s second try, when Pat Politoni used his speed and footwork out of dummy-half to cross and extend the lead to 8-0 following the missed Stapleton conversion.
Holdsworth continued to toy with the Jets left edge defence, almost replicating the first try of the match with a looping pass to Gagan out wide, who had no trouble bagging his second try of the afternoon.
Unlike the previous two attempts, Stapleton was able to add the extras, shaving the uprights and putting the score at 14-0 after just 19 minutes.
Two tries in the space of six minutes to Junior Roqica and Ben Hampton sent the home side into the sheds with a commanding 26-0 halftime lead.
Newtown came out in the opening set of the second half switched on, when Heath L’Estrange darted out from dummy-half to find winger Jonathan Reuben, who managed to get the ball down despite some strong defence from the Sharks.
Arana Taumata was unable to convert the try, leaving the scores at 26-4, just two minutes into the second half.
Any hopes of a Jets comeback were slashed, when Jacob Gagan rounded out his hat trick in the 50th minute, pouncing on a grubber kick from Ben Hampton in the right corner.
Nathan Stapleton pushed the kick just to the right of the uprights, giving Cronulla a 30-4 lead with half an hour to play.
Stapleton was in the action again, intercepting a try ten metres out from his own line, before running up-field and passing a long ball to an unmarked Travis Robinson, who put the ball down under the posts to extend the lead out to 36-4.
The Jets picked up a late four pointer, when front rower Ryan Verlinden reached out to slam the ball down, giving his side their first points in almost half an hour.
Chris Taripo made the easy kick, putting the score at 36-10.
Two tries in the final minutes to Tim Robinson and Nathan Stapleton secured the two points for the Sharks, and a comprehensive 46-10 win.
The Sharks will host the Panthers at Remondis Stadium this Saturday in a mouth-watering clash while the Jets will return home to face the Warriors.
Cronulla Sharks 46 (J Gagan 3, P Politoni, J Roqica, B Hampton, Travis Robinson, Tim Robinson, N Gardner tries; N Stapleton 5 goals) def. Newtown Jets 10 (J Reuben, R Verlinden tries; C Taripo goal) at Remondis Stadium.