And then there were none. The London Broncos put up a brave and often invigorating struggle against a superior side at The Stoop yesterday, but the end result is that Britain does not have a representative in the semi-finals of the World Club Championship.
Trailing by only eight points with 15 minutes remaining, London finished up comprehensively beaten, but not disgraced. Cronulla, for all the extra strands of ability running through their side, were not 24 points better on the day.
That said, London always had to work ferociously hard to contain them, despite taking an early lead through Tony Martin.
Russell Richardson, such a scourge of British defences in this competition, put the visitors ahead, only for Martin's goal to level the scores. Cronulla found an unlikely try-scoring hero in their second row, Sean Ryan who scored the first of his hat-trick to give them the advantage.
It took some wonderful, sustained handling skills for London to draw level, their debutante scrum-half, Giles Thomas, sending in Butch Fatnowna.
The Sharks took what turned out to be a decisive lead with tries either side of half-time. Richardson took a pass from the influential Adam Dykes for the first and then a ball won against the feed at the scrum led, with a sense of inevitability, to Ryan going over for his second, soon followed by his third as he began to feast on London's growing defensive frailties in wider positions.
However, the Broncos have not enjoyed such a successful domestic season for nothing and the try that gave them just a glimpse of possible salvation was a classic, Fatnowna snaffling what could have been a try-scoring pass in his own 25 and sending Martin on an 80-yard dash to the other end, outpacing Andrew Ettingshausen and Richard Barnett as he went.
It was a stirring act of defiance, but was proved to be illusory from the moment that Ettingshausen took Dykes's pass, drifted imperiously towards the wing and released Matt Rogers with an inside pass.
David Peachey, a threat whenever he saw the ball, struck with two tries in the last seven minutes and that was it, not just for the Broncos, but for Britain in a competition that has ruthlessly exposed the gap in playing standards on both sides of the world.
London Broncos: Mardon; Roskell, Martin, Fatnowna, Offiah; Tollett, Thomas; Mestrov, Howard, Bawden, Beazley, Gill, Matterson. Substitutes used: Salter, Hamilton, Dunford, Cotton.
Cronulla Sharks: Peachey; Rogers, Richardson, Ettingshausen, Barnett; Dykes, Healey; Stevens, Triester, Lee, Greenhill, Ryan, McKenna. Substitutes used: Davidson, Long, Bell, Donaghy.
Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).Reuse content