Ironically, the Sharks were without injured playmaker Todd Carney for the Battle of the Beaches in Round 6 when they met Manly at Brookvale Oval earlier this season.
From the outset, it looked like a day of celebration in the sun for the home fans. A crisp hole-running effort from Justin Horo, a spectacular solo try from Daly Cherry-Evans and a simple play from Tom Symonds gifted Manly an early 16-0 lead. It looked likely to be extended, too – at least until a scintillating 100-metre grab-and-go from Cronulla winger Nathan Stapleton changed the complexion of the game.
Stapleton’s second four-pointer, cutting the lead to just four, saw the encounter shift from an open opposed training run for Manly to a no-holds-barred prize fight against the Sharks.
However, tries to Peta Hiku and Steve Matai broke the Sharks’ backs late in the second half, with the home side eventually victorious 25-18.
The Sea Eagles’ outside speedsters ran riot, with Brett Stewart (110), Jorge Taufua (111) and Steve Matai (121) all scooting for more than 100 metres in the match.
Apart from the final scoreline the two sides were hard to separate on the statisticians’ table – they made the same number of errors (11), possessed an even share of the football and played the ball exactly the same number of times, too (117).