Cronulla’s NRL premiership campaign is in full swing after recording a comprehensive 42-22 home win over Parramatta.
Teen sensation Bronson Xerri bagged a brace on Saturday to make it five tries in two games, while co-captain Wade Graham went unscathed in his return from an ACL injury.
Young halfback Kyle Flanagan also scored a try and kicked seven from eight attempts for an individual 18-point haul.
After some early-season adversity with cap breaches and injuries, the Sharks produced one of their best displays of the year to lead 38-6 after an hour.
Maika Sivo, Josh Hoffman and Michael Jennings added some respectability to the scoreline before Aaron Gray iced the Sharks’ victory late.
Cronulla remain in sixth spot but are now equal on 16 points with fourth-placed Canberra and Newcastle ahead of next week’s clash with the Raiders.
Star playmaker Shaun Johnson is expected back for the encounter, while veteran prop Aaron Woods is due not long after that.
The Eels were condemned the moment skipper Clint Gutherson wobbled off concussed after a collision with Josh Dugan in the fourth minute.
Xerri split them apart not long after, and the signs were ominous when Andrew Fifita trampled over Mitch Moses in the 25th minute.
A Sivo try stemmed the tide, but the backbreaker came seconds before halftime when Dugan crashed over despite a knock-on in the build-up.
Any hopes of a comeback were put to bed when Xerri put Sosaia Feki away and then Chad Townsend backed up to score.
Flanagan pounced on a loose offload to cross for the fifth try, but Xerri provided the real highlight when he burned Hoffman for the sixth.
Xerri finished the night with 10 tackle breaks and 145 metres.
Fifita laid the foundation with 130 metres, six tackle breaks and four offloads – in addition to his try – in a barnstorming opening 32-minute stint.
But he was supported by a bench trio of Jack Williams, Braden Hamlin-Uele and Graham, all of whom cracked the 100-metre barrier.
The Eels have now lost four of their past five and are in danger of dropping out of the NRL top eight by the end of the round.
Storm smash Warriors
A breakout performance from Melbourne fullback Jahrome Hughes has helped orchestrate a 32-10 win over the Warriors that ensures the Storm top the standings at the midway point of the NRL season.
Not at its best until the second half, Melbourne was irrepressible in fighting back from 10-2 down late in the first half in Auckland on Saturday to register a fourth straight win.
It was the Storm’s eighth successive defeat of the Warriors, who slump to a 4-8 record and are gazing at a sizeable task to play finals football.
Kiwi-born Hughes was the chief executioner, bagging the first double of his NRL career with crucial tries either side of halftime.
The 24-year-old did so after switching to halfback, where he played the last 50 minutes after Brodie Croft was forced off with a head knock.