Carney and Gallen crush woeful Warriors
Todd Carney and Paul Gallen returned in brilliant style as Cronulla all but ended the Warriors' NRL playoff hopes with a 45-4 drubbing in Auckland on Sunday.
Carney scored 25 points, including the first two of their seven tries, while landing eight-from-eight goals as his side ran rampant to end their month-long winless run.
Winger John Williams and impressive interchange prop Andrew Fifita also crossed for doubles as the Sharks leapfrogged North Queensland to consolidate their position in the top eight.
Gallen's return from injury also lasted 80 minutes and was nearly as impressive, the skipper racking up a game-high 195 metres in his first club game for almost two months.
It helped his side dominate a listless, error-ridden Warriors, who offered little on attack, particularly after playmaker James Maloney left the game in the 16th minute with a knee ligament injury.
He was replaced by debut prop Carlos Tuimavave and the hosts struggled for structure from that point compared to the sharp work of the visitors.
Last year's beaten finalists - whose injury issues worsen by the week - still have a mathematical chance of reaching the playoffs but their performance suggests they can start planning for 2013.
The Warriors slumped to 13th on the ladder and suffered serious damage to their for-and-against points differential.
Both sides came in having lost their last three games but it was apparent as the Sharks went to halftime 21-4 ahead that they would remain comfortably inside the top eight after this round.
There was an element of luck to Carney's first try, when a Shaun Johnson grubber cannoned into his foot. He scooped up the loose ball and raced almost 90 metres, evading the valiant dive of prop Russell Packer when halfway there.
Carney sliced through some muddled Warriors defence in the 12th minute before landing a penalty goal and converting a try to halfback Jeff Robson, which was set up by an electric Colin Best burst.
Winger Bill Tupou crossed for the Warriors' only try when the TMO ruled Robson had stripped possession from Elijah Taylor in the leadup.
However, Carney's field goal before halftime and Fifita's easy try soon after secured the outcome.
Williams out-pointed opposite Tupou for his two tries before Fifita bagged his second in the dying stages.