Canberra Raiders thump the Cronulla Sharks
Cronulla blew a chance at a berth in the NRL top four as Jekyll and Hyde Canberra thumped the Sharks 36-4 before a stunned Toyota Park crowd on Sunday.
On the back of a disappointing home loss to Gold Coast, the Raiders were supposed to be easy picking for the Sharks, but a superb performance from Josh McCrone and a 20-point haul from Jarrod Croker kept Canberra in the hunt for the top eight.
Cronulla could have gone into fourth with a win,but may now finish the round in sixth if North Queensland win on Monday night.
The Sharks never recovered from an early onslaught which garnered Canberra 24 unanswered points over the opening half hour.
Back-to-back penalties from their opening set of the match had Cronulla on the attack, but a scintillating 90-metre kick return from winger Reece Robinson swung the game for good.
Halfback Sam Williams scored just moments later before McCrone started to leave his mark with a precise bomb which Jarrod Croker leaped highest to take for a 12-0 after 11 minutes.
McCrone burst the line inside his own half only for Sharks fullback Matthew Wright to ankle tap his support player Blake Ferguson to deny the Raiders more points.
It proved only a temporary halt to Canberra's charge, McCrone putting Josh Papalli over before the same duo combined for Ferguson to make it 24-0.
It prompted one disgruntled Sharks fan to break the silence with ''Lucky Lewis signed on Friday, he wouldn't be signing now'' in reference to last week's recruitment of international back-rower Luke Lewis for 2013.
While Lewis could do nothing to help the Sharks on Sunday, Mark Taufua try his best as he powered over three defenders, Todd Carney's miss of a simple conversion attempt taking some of the wind out of Cronulla's reply.
Despite the lopsided scoreboard the Sharks had enjoyed a 5-0 penalty count before Canberra got their first one 51 minutes in, and they should have been put away when Robinson crossed only for the last pass from Josh Dugan to be called forward.
The tough call mattered little as Dugan snatched a Carney pass for a 95 metre intercept 15 minutes from time before Croker completed his double in the dying stages.