The Manly Sea Eagles have defeated the Sharks 31-18 in a dominant display at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
The Sharks will rue a series of missed opportunities on the evening, unable to convert their chances when it mattered most.
The Manly Sea Eagles would be first to get on the board, after Curtis Sironen strolled over through some soft Cronulla defence in the 3rd minute.
Matthew Wright would make no mistake with the conversion attempt and the Sea Eagles were ahead 6-0.
The Sharks worked their way deep into Manly territory and looked set to make the most of the quality field position. Andrew Fifita was given the ball close to the Sea Eagles line however was ruled to have knocked the ball on and the Sea Eagles were back in possession.
Penalties and mistakes from either side saw the match go from end to end, with neither side able to get a consistent set of six in attack.
The midfield stalemate would continue and the Sharks woes were compounded in the 21st minute even further when Valentine Holmes took the ball up on his own 30m line before dropping the ball cold.
With Daly Cherry-Evans pulling the strings for the Sea Eagles, the visitors were quick to make the most of the quality field position and turn it into points.
Cherry-Evans took the ball to the line and before passing to Tom Trbojevic who drew in centre Jack Bird before offloading to Matthew Wright who would dive over in the corner to extend the Sea Eagles’ lead.
His conversion attempt from the sideline was successful and Manly were ahead 12-0 after 20 minutes.
Buoyed by their early points, the Sea Eagles had their tails up and wanted more points.
The men from the Peninsula worked the ball to their right edge and found a barn-storming Sironen who would cross over for his second try of the afternoon.
Wright’s conversion attempt was again successful and Manly would lead 18-0 after 24 minutes.
It was time for the Sharks to rally.
With Jack Bird switching to fullback and Valentine Holmes moving to the wing, the Sharks had more running in their legs and looked to building momentum.
With Manly in possession, they wanted to extend their lead and quell the Sharks’ momentum however Luke Lewis read Cherry-Evans’ pass, taking an intercept on his 30m line before running 70 metres to score next to the posts and put his side on the board.
Maloney’s conversion attempt was successful and the score was 18-6 after 30 minutes.
Momentum was in the Sharks’ hands now and it was time to take advantage.
The Sharks worked the ball deep into Manly’s end and looked certain to score again before Cherry-Evans gave away a penalty when he failed to get off Jack Bird in a tackle 10 metres out for the Manly line.
James Maloney kicked the ball into touch and the Sharks looked set to go through the motions close to the Sea Eagles line before switching the play back to the short side off the first play in a set move to find Sosaia Feki unmarked to score in his 100th NRL match.
Maloney once again made no mistake with the conversion attempt and the Sharks were within six points, at 18-12 after 35 minutes.
After the clock wound down to half time Cherry-Evans saw the opportunity to put his side seven points ahead through a field goal. The attempt was successful and the Sea Eagles were ahead 19-12 at the half.
Both sides would return to the field full of running, eager to put their mark on the game early in the second stanza.
The Sharks looked the more likely of the two sides to score, working their way deep into the Manly end however were not able to convert into points on the scoreboard.
However, the home side’s woes were compounded even further when Jayden Brailey was brought from the field and sent to hospital with a severe broken jaw.
Manly sensed an opportunity to pounce and make the most of the Sharks missed opportunities they did.
Blake Green received the ball 10m out and worked the play to his side’s left edge. The Sharks defence was not able to handle the pressure, with Gerard Beale and Valentine Holmes both creeping in to give Matthew Wright space on the left wing to go over the line untouched in the 54th minute.
The winger was able to converted his own try and Manly were in front 25-12 with 24 minutes on the clock.
The dominant performance continued from Manly when Blake Green took the ball to the Sharks’ line and sold a dummy to Paul Gallen before pushing through attempted tackles from Daniel Mortimer and Valentine Holmes to score yet another Manly try.
Wright would once again make no mistake with the conversion attempt and Manly extended their lead to 31-12 with 14 minutes remaining.
The Sharks would then work their way through a patch of play where they were unable to hold onto the ball whenever they tried to move to space.
Getting themselves into good field position, they were unable to launch the killer blow when needed, leaving Manly to gain possession back at crucial moments in the match.
They were though able to claw their way back into the game to some extent when Wade Graham broke through some weak Manly defence and score in the 73rd minute.
James Maloney’s conversion was successful and the score was 31-18 with six minutes on the clock.
Not to be outdone though, the Sea Eagles hit back within moments when Dylan Walker scooped up a Feki dropped ball 10 metres out from the Sharks line, weaved his way through the Sharks defensive line before crossing over for his first try of the evening.
Wright missed his first conversion attempt of the evening and the Sea Eagles would lead 35-18 with less than five minutes to play.
The Sharks had all of the running in the final five minutes however like much of the night, were unable to convert the possession into points as poor skill execution let them down and the score would remain 35-18 at full time.