Andrew Fifita's 200th game celebrations were rudely gatecrashed by the dogged Manly Sea Eagles on Sunday as the Cronulla Sharks copped a 24-14 defeat at PointsBet Stadium.
Fresh from prevailing in Saturday’s election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was present to watch his beloved Sharks play Fifita's milestone match but the Sea Eagles spoiled the jubilant mood in the Sutherland Shire by retaining the Steve Rogers Cup.
Manly centre Dylan Walker received a hostile reception in his first NRL appearance this year after missing the first nine rounds under the no-fault stand down policy, jeered loudly whenever he touched the ball.
Walker marked his comeback with an opportunistic second half try.
The result moves the Sea Eagles within striking distance of the top four, while the Sharks drop to ninth with a host of injured stars to return in the coming weeks.
Manly prop Addin Fonua-Blake opened the scoring when he burst onto a short ball from lock Jake Trbojevic and tore through a hole near the posts.
Manly winger Reuben Garrick booted the simple conversion.
Josh Dugan sent the kick-off out on the full and invited the Sea Eagles to attack from the penalty.
The home side were able to hold Manly out and soon retaliated with their first try.
Jayden Brailey jumped from dummy-half and found lock Paul Gallen, the captain then tipping on to Fifita who turned and delivered to Kyle Flanagan.
The five-eighth's playmaking nous came to the fore as he grubbered in behind the line on the right edge, the ball evading everyone except centre Bronson Xerri who dived over in the corner.
Flanagan couldn't convert and the score was 6-4 to the Sea Eagles.
Helped by three consecutive penalties, Manly posted a second try via fullback Brendan Elliot after he beat Sharks centre Josh Morris on the outside with some dazzling footwork.
Jayden Brailey appeared to have darted over to narrow the margin in the 31st minute but The Bunker stripped the try for a knock-on.
Cronulla's energy lifted immensely when bench forwards Braden Hamlin-Uele and Jack Williams came on, both players creating an impact with rampaging carries.
Momentum and repeated sets in the Sea Eagles' red-zone didn't translate to points for the Sharks, however, as Manly refused to cave.
The visitors struck a crucial blow just before half-time with Kane Elgey etching his name on the scoresheet after Dugan spilled a high kick from the halfback.
Walker incited more boos from the frustrated crowd following the break when he toed the Steeden ahead to touch down after Dugan and Feki failed to defuse three kicks in one play.
Garrick nailed his fourth goal to push the score to 24-4.
Cronulla kept their hopes of winning alive with a well-deserved four-pointer to Hamlin-Uele, the prop too big and determined to deny from close range.
Flanagan was on target from the tee to cut Manly's lead to 14 with half an hour to go.
Enjoying healthy field position and possession for much of the second stanza, Cronulla lacked the polish to fully break the gritty Sea Eagles open.
Sharks prop Matt Prior came painfully close to scoring in the 67th minute but Elliot managed to dislodge the football in a crucial moment.
Finally, the pressure took its toll on Manly and Feki nabbed a try from a pinpoint Townsend grubber.
Flanagan's conversion attempt bounced off the upright and away, leaving the Sharks to chase 10 points in the final nine minutes.
Cronulla almost went in again to set up a thrilling finish but Xerri's hands betrayed him with the try-line in sight.
Sosaia Feki, Braden Hamlin-Uele, Bronson Xerri tries, Kyle Flanagan goal