The Manly Sea Eagles have earned a hard-fought 14 points to 12 victory over the Sharks at Remondis Stadium to retain the Steve Rogers Cup.
With a top four berth on the line, the hosts would be unable to record a victory, and now sit fifth pending the Bulldogs clash with the Warriors at ANZ Stadium on Sunday evening.
Buoyed by a 19,146-strong Remondis Stadium crowd, the Sharks went about building plenty of early pressure and showed no signs of letting up early doors.
Sharks hooker Michael Ennis was amongst the thick of the action in the opening moments, as he earned two repeat sets of six and had the hosts well and truly on the front foot.
Just when Ennis looked likely to crack the Manly defensive line with a show-and-go, a Manly hand would see him spill the ball and relieve the visitors of a threat.
But looking to make amends for the uncharacteristic blot on his copybook, Ennis forced a Manly turn over in the prevailing set of defence and sent the Sharks on the attack once more.
With plenty of pressure and persistence on the Sea Eagles defence, the Sharks had looked to have cracked the Manly wall when Holmes claimed a try in the North-Eastern corner of Remondis.
But with the decision sent upstairs for a possible knock-on, the man in the box would quickly silence the cheers as the scores remained locked at nil.
After hammering the Manly goal line without result, the Sharks earned a penalty and opted to take a gift two points from the tee to open their accounts.
Up 2-nil and maintaining their control over the contest, the Sharks again asked the question of the video referee, when Michael Gordon and Paul Gallen scrambled to clean up a loose ball in the in-goal area.
Again though, the Sharks were ruled to have propelled the ball forward – but only after manly had lost the ball forward too – and the side’s lead remained at two.
From the prevailing drop-out, the Sharks continued to ask questions of the Manly defence, and Wade Graham soon after found the answers in breaking the Sea Eagles line, in crossing for the opening try of the afternoon.
Adjacent to the left-hand uprights, Gordon made no mistake in adding the extra two points, and the Sharks shot out to an eight-point advantage after 22 minutes.
Looking down – but by no means out of the match – Manly worked their way back into the contest and hit back with a try of their own through Jesse Sene-Lefao just two minutes later.
Kieran Foran took on the kicking duties in the absence of regular kicker and captain Jamie Lyon, but the Parramatta-bound five-eighth looked right at home with the tee at his foot in slotting the goal.
Buoyed by the try, Manly went to another gear and the match’s momentum soon swung in their favour.
With the help of some soft penalties, the Sea Eagles edged ever closer to another try, but when unable to break the Sharks’ line, they would opt to take 2 penalty goals and a 10-8 lead back to the sheds.
Upon the resumption the Sharks had looked to have arrested the momentum back in their favour, but much alike the first half the hosts would be unable to turn possession into points.
With their defence in tact, though, the Sharks had looked to have scored one of the more remarkable tries of their 2015 campaign when Lewis and Holmes combined in a 80 metre runaway effort.
Again the Sharks’ calls for four-points would be thwarted by the man upstairs, with Holmes ruled to have knocked-on in the lead up.
With 25 minutes on the clock and still down by two, the Sharks needed some inspiration and found some in the form of their captain, Paul Gallen.
A trademark offload from the Captain saw Sam Tagataese and then Jack Bird in space, and the young number six linked with Gerard Beale who crossed to send the Sharks to the front.
Gordon was unable to add the extras from the touchline, as the Sharks hung on to a slender 12-10 lead.
In the prevailing set of six, Jack Bird went about reminding the fans just how potent he can be with the ball in his hands and a staggered defensive line at his front, in making a bust to earn his side another set of six from a penalty.
Looking ominous in attack and pressing the Manly line, Michael Ennis tried to hit his skipper with a short-ball, only for the pass to be intercepted by Manly’s Justin Horo.
Horo ran the best part of 60 metres before linking with Tom Trbojevic who finished the bust by crossing for a try.
Despite their best efforts late, The Sharks would be unable to find more points and Manly would run out 14 points to 12 victors.
CRONULLA SHARKS – 12 (TRIES: Graham, Beale | GOALS: Gordon (2/3)
Def. by MANLY SEA EAGLES – 14 (TRIES: Sene-Lefao, T. Trbojevic | GOALS: Foran (3/4)