Cronulla won their sixth straight NRL clash and claimed outright third on the ladder with a 44-22 trouncing of Canberra on Sunday.
Aided again by Todd Carney, the Sharks set up the victory with a five-try-to-two first half for a 28-12 lead at the break before holding out the Raiders at Canberra Stadium.
Carney was in damaging form against his old club, orchestrating at least three of the Sharks’ tries and finishing with 12 points off his own boot with six successful goals from nine attempts.
After making a habit of winning nail-biters over the past five weeks, it was a blissfully comprehensive victory by the Sharks.
Before this weekend, they hadn’t won by more than 12 points.
They also managed to match their highest score against Canberra, having also notched 44 points over the Raiders in 1982.
It was another disappointing showing from the Raiders in front of their home crowd.
David Furner’s men had much to prove in their first game back since losing captain Terry Campese to a season-ending knee injury, but came off second best in the battle of the forwards.
The game had looked wide open nearing halftime when Josh McCrone posted his second try to pin the margin back to four points at 16-12.
But two tries in seven minutes to Cronulla before the break pushed their lead out from four to 16, and they never looked back.
They posted another three tries to two in the second half for a clear victory.
“They were just too enthusiastic for us,” Raiders’ forward Tom Learoyd-Lahrs said, before urging the home crowd to stick with the injury-hit club.
John Williams scored two tries for Cronulla, while McCrone was one of Canberra’s best and finished with the same tally.
The last-minute inclusion of star fullback Josh Dugan failed to pay dividends for the Raiders, although he did manage a classy try in the second half when the game was all but lost.