The NYC Sharks have survived a spirited challenge from the Manly Sea Eagles to win 34 – 30 at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
After building up an early 18-0 lead many may have thought a repeat of the Wests Tigers demolition from last week was on the cards, however the Sea Eagles responded and came close to toppling the NYC leading Sharks side.
The match began with the Sea Eagles conceding an early offside penalty, and when Manly winger Jade Anderson spilt a spiralling bomb it was Sharks half back Kyle Flanagan who scooped up the loose ball to cross in the 6th minute.
Flanagan slotted the conversion to give his side a 6 – 0 lead.
Taking advantage of a shaky Sea Eagles kick off, Cronulla continued to test their opponents defence and a Flanagan offload to Ryan King saw the front rower push his way past the Sea Eagles defence to score his teams second. Flanagan added the two to push the Sharks ahead 12 – 0.
Riding on momentum, Cronulla were awarded consecutive sets and fired attack down the left and the lethal combination of King, Flanagan and Isaac Lunelume almost put Joshua Tuilagi over in the 16th minute, before the Sharks’ winger was pushed into touch.
They wouldn’t have to wait long however to score again, winger Sione Katoa finding space and making a line break, with Flanagan backing up to bag his double. Flanagan put the ball between the sticks and the home side led 18 – 0 at a point a minute.
Momentum then swung in the way of Manly and in a show of sheer strength, captain Jesse Martin barged his way over in the 24th minute.
The Sea Eagles would continue to challenge the Sharks defence, winning consecutive sets and when Brad Parker set Luke Poselli up for a four-pointer in the 32nd minute the Sea Eagles would trail 18 - 8.
A rattled Sharks outfit then allowed Parker to scoop up a loose ball to crash over in the 34th minute, Anderson missing his third conversion for his team to trail 18 – 12.
Cronulla retaliated just minutes later, fullback Will Kennedy sneaking a grubber through for the lightening-fast Katoa to ground the ball wide out. Flanagan’s conversion was waved away and the home side hit the sheds at half time leading 22 – 12.
HALF TIME SHARKS 22 MANLY 12
Manly opened the scoring in our second stanza, five-eighth Tom Wright beating multiple Cronulla defenders to secure a bomb and tough down in the 44th minute. Anderson added the two and the Sharks led 22 – 18.
Determined to take back control, Flanagan directed play down the middle and his inspiring footwork set Lumelume up for a try and when he booted the conversion and the Sharks had some breathing space at 28 – 18.
Manase Fainu would run through a hole to score in the 61st minute for Manly and with the successful conversion it was game on again at 28 – 24.
Now desperate to retain their spot on top of the NYC ladder the Sharks showed good composure, captain Jack Williams sending Blayke Brailey over for the match winner with just seven minutes left. Flanagan booted the conversion to push his side ahead 34 – 24.
A late Sea Eagles try on the full time siren brought the scores closer together but the Sharks had held on for a 34 – 30 victory.
FULL TIME SHARKS 34 MANLY 30
Flanagan (2), King, Katoa, Lumeluume, Brailey
Martin, Poselli, Parker, Wright, Fainu (2)