Match Report | Round 17
A faultless first half has powered the Sharks to a resounding 44-12 win over top-four rivals the Roosters at a sold out Central Coast Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Cronulla's sixth-straight win over the Tricolours came on the back of an uncharacteristically brilliant opening stanza that saw them open up a 20-12 lead thanks to a 19/19 completion rate and 66 per cent of possession.
Their second half was equally as impressive with Shane Flanagan's men racing in four unanswered tries in what was a perfect response following last week's disappointing effort against the Sea Eagles.
Five-eighth James Maloney bounced back from last week's underwhelming display with a man-of-the-match performance against his former side that included a masterclass in goal-kicking.
The Roosters started the round in second spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder but looked like a shadow of the side that defeated the Storm last week in what was their worst effort of the season.
The Sharks opened the scoring via a James Maloney penalty goal – a somewhat conservative decision at the time – but it took them just two more minutes to do some real damage on the scoreboard when Jack Bird sliced through on the right edge to give his side an 8-0 lead after 16 minutes.
Having been starved of all the ball in the opening exchanges, the Roosters quickly clicked into gear and managed to hit straight back when Luke Keary burst into the backfield, grubbered ahead and found Daniel Tupou with a pinpoint kick to bridge the gap.
Tupou's try proved to be a minor blip on Cronulla's radar as they controlled all the ball for the next five minutes with the weight of possession eventually resulting in a try to Valentine Holmes who finished off a nifty play around the ruck.
Just when it looked like the defending premiers had gained the upper hand, the Roosters took advantage of their first penalty of the afternoon to hit back when Ryan Matterson strolled through a yawning gap to cut the gap to two points.
The see-sawing affair took another turn as a slip in the defensive line created a three-on-one overlap for the Sharks who crossed for their third try of the half through left winger Sosaia Feki just before the break.
The second stanza started much like the first half finished with the Sharks finding joy down the left flank as Ricky Leutele got on the outside of his man to push the lead out to 14 points.
Cronulla's dominance was confirmed in the 57th minute when right winger Gerard Beale became the final member of the back five to score to complete his side's backline bingo.
With the shackles loosened, Sharks fans went into full party mode when Luke Lewis plucked an intercept near his own line, and for the second time in as many matches, raced 90 metres to confirm he is as good as any fine wine before Leutele put the icing on the cake with the final play of the game.
Sharks 44 (Ricky Leutele 2, Jack Bird, Valentine Holmes, Sosaia Feki, Gerard Beale, Luke Lewis tries; James Maloney 8 goals) def. Roosters 12 (Daniel Tupou, Ryan Matterson tries; Michael Gordon 2 goals) at Central Coast Stadium. Half-time: 20-12. Crowd: 20,060