NRL Trial - Sharks v Manly
Scores in trials can certainly be misleading, with many at the Sharks sporting smiles at the full time siren despite the final tally favouring their opponents.
After 80 minutes had elapsed the Sharks were beaten 42-22 by Manly, however it was about a half an hour of quality football that had coach Shane Flanagan and those in senior playing group very satisfied watching from the stands.
After Manly had run up a 30-6 half time lead when both teams had second string lineups on the paddock, the Sharks unleashed the likes of Barba, Gordon, Robson, Tupou and Manly Lyons, Stewart, Cherry-Evans and Ballin, when the whistle blew to start the second half.
The match picked up a notch in speed and it would be the Sharks who took the upper hand.
They first crossed through a try to Jacob Gagan after the young winger leapt high above his opposite number to grab a Jeff Robson cross field kick.
Then somewhat against the run of play it was that man Gagan again in the thick of the action when he jumped on a Manly grubber kick, beat a couple of defenders then won a 65-metre foot race to the try line.
Gordon kicked the conversion and the Sharks led 10-0 in the second period.
The Sharks would add to their lead shortly after, this time through some brilliant play from Ben Barba and Anthony Tupou, with Gordon capitalizing with a try adjacent to the posts.
Again Gordon added the extras, making the second half score 16-0 Sharks and 30-22 overall.
Coach Flanagan had seen enough of his leading lights shortly after the resumption of the final quarter, with Barba, Gordon, Robson and Tupou heading from the field and into an early shower.
In the first half of the match the Sharks try came after a strong charge from Jets forward Leonati Feiloakitau, with the big back rower running onto a well-time Jaden Clarke pass before dashing 40 metres to score an impressive four-pointer.
While the Sharks had a side with limited NRL experience on the paddock in the first half, the Manly squad included the likes of Willie Mason, Feleti Mateo and Luke Burgess, as the young Sharks, with at least 11 of the team from NSW Cup feeder club Newtown, found the challenge to be a difficult one.
While hard to single out individual performers in a match of this kind, the Sharks would certainly be happy with the effort put in by Barba in his first outing in Cronulla colours. The Robson-Barba combination worked well in a good sign for the season ahead.
Also standing out was Tupou who showed the benefits of a injury-free off-season with an enterprising display.
The only negatives on the night surrounded hamstring injuries to Bukuya and Gagan. The pair will have scans in the coming days however the early diagnosis is that neither injury is of a serious nature and both should be back on deck in advance of the teams’ season opener on March 8.
Gagan 2, Gordon, Feiloakitau tries, Gordon 2, Murphy goals