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 in their NSW Cup fixture at Remondis Stadium.
Cronulla were the dominant side for much of the match, with the big bodies of David Fifita and Tim Robinson running riot, laying the platform for a the halves 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 putting 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 to cross and extend the lead to 8-0.
Stapleton looked to have his first conversion of the afternoon, but a gust of wind got hold of the ball, pushing it into the upright.
In almost a replica of the first try of the match, a looping cutout pass from Holdsworth found an unmarked Gagan out wide, for his second of the afternoon and unlike the previous two attempts Stapleton was able to add the extras, putting the scores 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 comprehensive 26-0 lead.
Newtown come out in the opening set of the second half switched on, when Heath L’Estrange darting out of dummy-half before finding winger Jonathon Reuben, who somehow managed to get the ball down despite some strong pressure 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 hope of a Jets comeback was slashed, when Gagan rounded out his hat trick in the 50th minute, pouncing on a grubber kick from Hampton in the right corner.
Stapleton pushed the kick just to the right of the uprights, giving the Sharks a 30-4 lead with half an hour to play.
Stapleton was in the action again, intercepting the pass ten metres out from his own line, before running up-field and throwing a long ball to a wide open Travis Robinson, who put the ball down under the posts.
Stapleton capped off the try he set up, extending Cronulla’s lead out to 34-4 with 15 minutes remaining.
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 making the easy kick to put the scores at 36-10
Two tries in the final five minutes from Robinson and Stapleton secured the two points for the Sharks, and a comprehensive 46-10 win.
Jacob Gagan 3, Junior Roqica, Pat Politoni, Travis Robinson, Nathan Gardner, Ben Hampton, Nathan Stapleton tries, Stapleton 5 goals
Newtown Jets 10