Cronulla are back on track for a place in the NRL top four after scoring their biggest win over the Wests Tigers.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan is confident his side, who demolished the Tigers 40-18 at Remondis Stadium on Saturday, have done enough to secure a place in the finals and is now focused on his side getting two bites of the cherry in the playoffs.
The seven-tries-to-three win over the hapless Tigers moved the Sharks to fifth on the ladder and equal on points with the fourth-placed South Sydney.
Cronulla’s emphatic victory – their biggest over the Wests Tigers since beating them 32-6 in 2008 – also gave their home fans something to cheer about after the 30-2 drubbing by Melbourne at Remondis last Monday.
“We were up for a while, we won a few in a row and came up against a really committed Storm side and it was really important that we came out here and won on Saturday afternoon in front of a good crowd,” Flanagan said.
“I think we sealed the top eight, thirty (points) will get you there.
“We’d like to think we are a chance for the top four and if we win our next two, we’ll be a chance.”
Cronulla, who face strugglers Parramatta and red-hot Manly in the final two weeks of the regular season, jumped above the Storm (28 points), with Craig Bellamy’s Melbourne playing lowly Newcastle on Monday night.
Cronulla made a perfect start to the second half when winger Valentine Holmes scored just after the resumption of play to seemingly put the Sharks out of reach at 24-6.
But the Tigers stayed in the contest, fighting back with tries to Martin Taupau and Curtis Sironen to get within a converted try.
Holmes extinguished the Tigers’ comeback when he scored his second try, picking up a loose ball to go 60 metres to score next to the posts before Wade Graham and fullback Michael Gordon, who was one of the Sharks’ best, both scored late tries.
Gordon finished the day with 16 points, kicking a penalty goal and five from six conversions.
Tigers coach Jason Taylor admits his side was playing catch-up from the opening whistle.
“They started the game really strongly and we didn’t see the ball for seven-odd minutes and we were behind on the scoreboard before we got it,” he said.
“We did well to get ourselves back on the scoreboard in the second half, but one pass goes astray and that was the final nail.”
The Sharks went to the halftime break leading 20-6, following a dominant opening from the hosts.
Luke Lewis opened the scoring for Cronulla before Tim Simona scored against the run of play.
Cronulla answered with tries to Sosaia Feki and Michael Ennis.
The defeat leaves the Tigers on 18 points and equal with the last-placed Gold Coast.