Manly Warringah Sea Eagles recorded a memorable 14-12 victory over Cronulla Sharks at Remondis Stadium tonight.
In the final premiership match of the season and unable to make the finals, the Sea Eagles showed tremendous courage in defence to overcome an early deficit to record a much deserved victory to send departing Coach Geoff Toovey off on a winning note.
The Sharks enjoyed 60% of possession with the Sea Eagles having to make an extra 123 tackles to claim the two points. The Sea Eagles finished ninth on the premiership ladder, just one win behind the eighth-placed St George-Illawarra Dragons.
The Sharks dominated possession and camped themselves inside the Sea Eagles quarter for the majority of the opening 15 minutes but could not cross the line. Their first points came through a penalty goal to full-back Valentine Holmes for a 2-0 lead.
Cronulla opened the tryscoring when second-rower Wade Graham managed to get the ball down in a one-on-one tackle with Tom Symonds in the 19th minute. Holmes converted for an 8-0 lead.
The Sea Eagles got on the board in the 25th minute through lock Jesse Sene-Lefao. Five-eighth Kieran Foran converted to leave the visitors trailing 8-6.
The Sharks were denied for a third time by the video referee when he again correctly ruled no try, this time to winger Sosaia Feki after a great tackle by stand-in captain and full-back Brett Stewart.
Foran levelled the scores in the 33rd minute through a penalty goal for an 8-all scoreline.
The video ref this time denied a try to Sea Eagles prop Josh Starling in the 38th minute when he ruled he touched the ball at the same time Sharks half-back Jeff Robson had grounded the ball. The original decision by the referee was a try.
Foran converted a penalty goal on half-time to give Manly-Warringah a 10-8 lead at the break.
The Sharks were denied a try to hooker Michael Ennis after he was held up in the 48th minute. Two minutes later, they were again denied a try to Holmes after the video ref ruled Feki had touched the ball in trying to defend a crossfield kick.
The Sea Eagles dug deep in defence and were relentless to hold the home side out for the first 24 minutes of the second half until an offload by captain Paul Gallen resulted in a try to centre Gerard Beale for a 12-10 lead. Gordon’s attempt from the sideline hit the upright.
Manly Warringah regained the lead in the 69th minute when second-rower Justin Horo took an intercept pass off his own tryline to race 60 metres before linking up with flying winger Tom Trbojevic who raced away untouched to score out wide.
Foran’s conversion attempt hit the upright to leave the Sea Eagles with a 14-12 lead with 10 minutes remaining.
The Sea Eagles dug deep in defence to withstand the final Sharks attack to record victory.