It was carnivores versus easy meat in the first half as Cronulla consistently knocked Warrington back in the battle and then ripped them apart with razor-sharp handling.
Warrington were made to pay the penalty for all their rugby's rough edges right from the start. Cronulla were devastating from set-pieces, starting with the penalty awarded against Mark Forster in the sixth minute. Swift, flat passing from Paul Green and Mitch Healey saw the Sharks cover virtually the width of the field for David Peachey to gallop into the line and score the first try.
The quality of the distribution from the same two half-backs was again in evidence when Cronulla went further ahead, their young centre, Russell Richardson, going through for the first of his four tries, despite the efforts of Paul Sculthorpe and David Hulme to tackle him.
Salesi Finau pitched straight into touch to give Cronulla possession in the danger area once more. The result was the same, Danny Lee and Healey combining for Richardson to power over once more.
Warrington's next batch of problems began with a weaving 50-yard run out of defence by the beautifully balanced Peachey, continued when Lee Briers held down the irrepressible Richardson and Leigh and Peachey finally set up Wade Forrester.
The educated hands of Green and the fearsome running of Richardson brought the next touchdown immediately before half-time. Cronulla certainly did not need any help but they got some at the start of the second half when Matt Rogers, who also finished with four goals, fielded a kick on his own byline, appeared to be tackled, but was allowed to get to his feet and go all the way to the other end of the field for a marathon try.
The New Zealand Test winger, Richard Barnett, then went in for a simple score, Richardson completed his haul from a typically swift pass from Green and Cronulla would have had more but for a growing tendency to over- elaborate.
Perhaps inspired by the intervention of a streaker, Warrington at least got something with which to cover their embarrassment in the last few minutes, Nigel Vagana and Kelly Shelford going in for consolation tries.
The sparse crowd was a warning, however, that the competition will fail unless British teams perform better over the 80 minutes.
Supporters will not turn out to watch unless they believe there is a contest in prospect - and there have been few signs yet of British sides producing that contest.
Warrington: Penny; Rudd, Roper, Vagana, Forster; Shelford, Briers; Chambers, Swann, Finau, Hulme, Catupu, Sculthorpe. Substitutes: Thornley, Geritas, Highton, Barrow.
Cronulla: Peachey; Barnett, Ettingshausen, Richardson, Rogers; Hualey, Green; Lee, Creister, Stevens, McKenna, Graham, Nikau. Substitutes: Lang, Forrester, Sammutt, Bell.
Referee: R Smith (Castleford).Reuse content