While wingers Jorge Taufua and Peta Hiku combined for two tries, three linebreaks and 326 running metres, veterans Brett Stewart and Steve Matai were also among Manly’s best, with the two old hands featuring in all five of the home side’s tries.
And in a nod to that mixture of youth and experience, coach Geoff Toovey preferred to single out Brett Stewart’s commanding performance at the back for applause, while skipper Jamie Lyon was quick to sing the praises of young guns Taufua and Hiku.
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Stewart was impressive as he threw the final pass for four of Manly’s tries, including a Midas touch-and-go effort that put Hiku away for the Sea Eagles’ final four pointer in the second half.
Taufua, meanwhile, was the definition of dynamic throughout the first half, with a try, an assist for Matai and a 70-metre intercept an emphatic statement that he would be ready for NSW Origin duties despite only playing his first match of the season after five weeks out with a shoulder injury.
“I think he’s got that potential [to play Origin],” Lyon said.
“He’s still only young and a bit more experience will do him well. I’m sure he’ll be in the mix there somewhere, I think he was in the mix there last year as well, so we’ll just have to wait and see how he goes.”
Any side that can afford to play David Williams, the NRL’s leading tryscorer last year, in NSW Cup is blessed with backline riches most clubs can only dream about, and Toovey admitted it was a difficult decision to drop the crowd favourite.
“Both Jorge and David were top tryscorers from last year and David’s been going OK for us,” Toovey said.
“But Peta Hiku has been playing really well and I also had an edge to cover, and also if something happened with Brett Stewart’s injury as well.”
Toovey said he was pleased with the win, despite acknowledging his side could have put more points on a disappointing Cronulla side after leading 20-0 at the half-time break.
“It was very reminiscent of the Melbourne game,” added the Manly mentor, referencing the Sea Eagles' 23-22 loss to the Storm, having led by the same margin after 40 minutes.
“But fortunately for us I think Cronulla dropped the ball more than us so it got a bit scrappy there towards the end. But it was a great effort, particularly after last week.”
Lyon said Manly would be focusing on a full 80-minute performance at training this week before Good Friday’s clash with the Cowboys in Gosford, where the Sea Eagles have won in 10 of their 13 starts.
“Maybe the concentration got away from us there where we slackened off," he said.
“We just dropped a few balls and the other team did too. But we’ll work on that this week, and we always enjoy our trips up the coast.
“It’s a good field and we usually get a good turn out, so hopefully we can get a few fans out up there on Good Friday. We enjoy going up there, and we’ll be looking for something close to a complete performance - we’ll be hoping for a dry one at least.”