A gallant second half comeback wasn't enough for the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles at Pointsbet Stadium tonight, going down 34-22 to Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in round seven of the Telstra Premiership.
A poor first half defensive effort and some barnstorming runs from Cronulla centre Siosifa Talakai saw the Sharks lead 32-0 at half-time before the Sea Eagles showed some true resilience to get back within 10 points late in the match.
The task was made even harder in the second half for the Sea Eagles with knee injuries to Dylan Walker and Taniela Paseka, and a shoulder injury to Andrew Davey, despite Manly scoring 22 points to 2.
The Sharks opened the scoring in the first minute through Talakai on the left edge following an error from the kick-off for a 4-0 lead.
Manly had their first big chance of the match in the 11th minute as fullback Reuben Garrick tried to burrow underneath the defence to no avail.
The Sharks had their second try in the 14th minute as Talakai grabbed a double. Half-back and captain Nicho Hynes - a former Sea Eagles U20s player - converted for a 10-0 lead.
Cronulla had their third five minutes later as Talakai set up his winger, Ronaldo Mulitalo. Hynes converted for a 16-0 lead.
Round 7: Post Match Press Conference
The Sharks again caused trouble for Manly's right edge with two more tries within two minutes. Mulitalo scored his second near the sideline and full-back William Kennedy scored his first underneath the posts. Hynes converted one of the tries for a 26-0
The Sea Eagles then lost boom second-rower Haumole Olakau’atu to the sin-bin in the 30th minute after the Bunker reviewed a tackle minutes earlier.
The Sharks finished off a dominant first half in the 39th minute with a try to second-rower Teig Wilton. Hynes converted for a 32-0 lead at the break.
Manly Coach Des Hasler replaced centre Morgan Harper with exciting young back Tolu Koula at the start of the second half.
Four minutes into the second 40, winger Christian Tuipulotu dived over on the left edge after a perfectly placed pass from full-back Reuben Garrick for a 32-4 scoreline.
Manly were in again four minutes later when Paseka barged past handful of defenders to score. Garrick converted for a 32-10 scoreline.
Match Highlights: Sharks v Sea Eagles
The Sea Eagles were starting to gain momentum and scored their third try in the 53rd minute through hooker Lachlan Croker after forcing his way over from dummy half. Garrick converted for a 32-16 scoreline.
Manly crossed again in the 63rd minute after Cherry-Evans put Olakau'atu over untouched. Garrick converted for a 32-22 scoreline.
Davey then went close to scoring with seven minutes remaining before Hynes converted a penalty goal in the 78th minute for the 34-22 scoreline.
The Sharks also reclaimed the annual Steve Rogers Memorial Trophy tonight for the sixth time in 26 matches between the two clubs.
Manly now play the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Central Coast Stadium next Friday night.