MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
There was action from the opening kick-off. Daly Cherry-Evans knocked the ball back into his own in-goal and was swamped by Sharks, forcing a line drop out.
In the first attacking set of the game, the Sharks opened the scoring. They spread the ball to the barnstorming Siosifa Talakai, who sliced through the defence for an early try.
After the fast start, the two sides settled into the game and traded back and forth sets. It wasn’t long before Talakai returned to the forefront. The Sharks ventured into Manly’s half again and hit their strike centre. Again, Talakai took on the line and crashed over for his second try.
The Sharks could smell blood in the water. They surged down field and kept feeding the ball to Talakai. This time, Talakai offloaded to Ronaldo Mulitalo who stepped inside to score the Sharks third try.
Unfortunately for Manly, they gave away a penalty in the following set and invited the Sharks back onto the attack. Once again, Talakai got his hands on the ball and he continued to hurt Manly. He broke free down the left again and got the ball to Mulilato, who scored his second try in the corner.
Rubbing salt into Manly’s open wounds, Haumole Olakau’atu was sin-binned for direct shoulder contact to the head of Aiden Tolman.
Only minutes later, it was an instant replay of the previous play when Talakai busted through the shell-shocked defence of Manly. In unstoppable fashion, he sprinted down field and chipped a kick into the in-goal for William Kennedy to scoop up the ball and score.
The home side got one more try through Teig Wilton, but the first half was all about the destructive performance of Siosifa Talakai.
HALF-TIME: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 32 Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 0Embed from Getty Images
After being demoralised in the first half, Manly started the second half with a mountain to climb. They started off on the right foot when they scored an early try through Christian Tuipolotu.
A penalty against the Sharks in the next set saw Manly get a piggy-back down field. Daly Cherry-Evans ran from dummy-half and passed to Taniela Paseka, who crashed through a gap to score their second try in four minutes.
Playing with nothing to lose, Manly kept chancing their arm. They maintained their momentum and it wasn’t long before they had their third try. With the Sharks looking nervous in defence, Lachlan Croker darted out of dummy-half and somehow got the ball down with three Sharks hanging off him.
The comeback was well and truly on for Manly. Within 20 minutes they had cut the lead from 32 to just 16 and had the Sharks on the back foot.
Over the next 10 minutes the Sharks were able to stem the flow of points. Manly still maintained the better of the field position, keeping the Sharks under pressure. Eventually the pressure was too much for the Sharks, as Manly broke through again. Daly Cherry-Evans delivered a pass to Haumole Olakau’atu who crashed over, cutting the lead to just 10.
Inside the final 10 minutes, Manly kept hunting as they looked to get within a converted try. They came close when Cherry-Evans grubbered into the in-goal, but Andrew Davey knock-on in the act of scoring.
Time and fatigue became Manly’s biggest enemies. The Sharks held on and kept Manly out, icing the game with a late penalty goal to secure a 12-point win in a tale of two halves.
FULL-TIME: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 34 Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 22
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Siosifa Talakai (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), 2 pts – Ronaldo Mulitalo (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), 1 pt – Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles)
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