Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 12
Tries: Graham, Beale
Goals: Gordon (2/3)
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 14
Tries: Sene-Lefao, Tom Trbojevic
Goals: Foran (3/4)
The Manly Sea Eagles have upset the Cronulla Sharks’ top four aspirations courtesy of a 14-12 victory at Remondis Stadium n front of 19, 146 fans.
The Sharks were highly fancied to win the encounter and claim the coveted fourth spot, however the Sea Eagles played with a lot of spirit to send outgoing coach and Manly great Geoff Toovey out a winner.
A large and vocal home crowd turned up in hope to see Cronulla win a second bite of the cherry in Finals football, but instead witnessed a determined Manly hold the home team to just two tries, despite a glut of possession to the Cronulla team.
The game had started out strongly for Cronulla, who peppered the Manly line, although the domination of possession and field position failed to trouble the scorers. After showing their hand by taking a tap instead of a gift two points, the Sharks soon back tracked when given a second opportunity in the 15th minute of play, opting for the shot at goal. Michael Gordon made no mistakes and the Sharks took a 2-nil advantage.
The margin was then extended six minutes later when the continued pressure from Cronulla finally lead to a try, as Wade Graham powered his way over the line, the back rower clearly fired up as he roared with pleasure following the grounding of the ball. Gordon converted the try for an eight point advantage.
The Manly side however, had a rare opportunity to venture inside the Cronulla 20m zone, and made it count straight away, with Jesse Sene-Lefao barging over under the sticks in the 25th minute to close the gap back to two points.
Two penalty goals to Kieran Foran before half time gave the Sea Eagles a surprise 10-8 lead, despite having just 37% of possession.
The Sharks came out firing in the second half, and looked to have scored a contender for try of the season to Valentine Holmes in the 50th minute. Daly Cherry Evans kicked for Jorge Taufua with the ball falling loose on the ground. Veteran forward Luke Lewis then toed the ball ahead, scooping it up and flicking it in field to Holmes just as the ball looked set to go in to touch, allowing Holmes to score under the posts. The decision was sent up stairs, with video replay showing Holmes had knocked on in the initial contest, making the spectacular Lewis effort null and void.
Five minutes later, however, the home side did make their pressure count. A quick play the ball from captain Paul Gallen allowed the Sharks to make numbers out wide, and, after putting the ball through the hands, Gerard Beale crossed the line. Gordon couldn’t convert the try giving the Sharks a two point advantage with 23 minutes to play.
But as the Sharks looked to extend their margin, Justin Horo swooped in the 67th minute to steal a Michael Ennis pass inside the Eagles 10m line. The second rower made it to the Cronulla 40m line before finding support in speedster Tom Trbojevic who scored out wide despite the desperate chase by Holmes.
The Sharks tried to find a way back to the lead, but Manly kept turning up for each other to hold them out, confirming the Sharks would miss the top four, while sending Toovey out as a deserved winner.