Manly fullback Brett Stewart set up several tries in his side's big Round 6 win over Cronulla at Brookvale. Copyright: Robb Cox/NRL Photos.

Sea Eagles smash sorry Sharks

Jorge Taufua took all of 30 minutes to throw his name into the Origin wingers ring with a dominant display in Manly’s 24-4 thumping of a disappointing Sharks outfit at Brookvale Oval.

Showing no lingering effects of the shoulder injury that kept him out of the first five weeks of the season, Taufua scored a try, set up another and ran for 116 metres in the first half-hour, ensuring he will star in opposite number Nathan Stapleton’s nightmares for weeks to come in front of 9065 fans on another soggy Sunday afternoon.

A series of second-half dropped balls from the Wentworthville junior, as well as a 70-metre intercept that ended in him being run down by Sharks prop Sam Tagatese, suggested Taufua was short of a gallop in his first run of 2014 but the encouraging display should put him well and truly on Laurie Daley’s radar for the vacant NSW winger’s spot alongside Dragons flyer Brett Morris.

Star fullback Brett Stewart also gave Daley a timely reminder of his claims to the NSW No.1 jumper with four try assists, as he, Taufua and left-edge centre Steve Matai taunted their Cronulla counterparts, breaking through the visitors' flimsy defence at will as Manly surged to a 20-0 half-time lead.

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But it was Taufua, whose return saw veteran David Williams assigned to NSW Cup duties, that kick-started Manly’s afternoon in just the second minute of play, as he loped downfield on a long break before putting Matai over for his seventh meat pie of the season.

An opportunistic try to the unlikeliest of players, Manly’s workhorse prop Brenton Lawrence, allowed the home side to double their lead 12 minutes later. The big man surged onto a hail-Mary flick pass from Stewart before making light work of the 20 metres to the tryline and the cover defence of Sharks fullback Michael Gordon, picking up his first try for the club since joining the Northern beaches side last year.

As the clouds cleared and late afternoon sun streamed through, Taufua lit up the Sea Eagles fortress all on his own in the 20th minute, showing some Michael Jackson-esque moves in pirouetting past the attempted tackle of Blake Ayshford in the left corner in the 20th minute. Jamie Lyon’s perfect afternoon with the boot was scuppered with a shanked attempt from the sideline.

Matai was in again with half-time approaching, as Stewart featured in a simple second-man play that badly exposed Cronulla’s right-side defence to put his centre across untouched. Lyon’s attempt from out wide was again waved away to leave the Sea Eagles up by 20 at the break.

With play meandering along after the break as both sides succumbed to the tough handling conditions, Stewart added a touch of class that only he could, with a sublime flick pass for right winger Peta Hiku being soccered through by the young winger for Manly’s fifth try in the 54th minute.

As the game descended into a proverbial dog’s breakfast of dropped balls and ill-directed passes, a 67th-minute play summed up a disappointing afternoon for the Sharks, who slumped to their 39th defeat from 45 visits to Brookvale.

With a rare attacking chance on offer, centre Ricky Leutele took on Hiku as he backed away in the face of a two-on-one. Leutele took the young flyer on and despite being on the back foot, Hiku gave the 24-year-old a textbook shoulder up under the ribs for his troubles to send the ball spilling over the sideline.

The Sharks got themselves a consolation try when skipper Wade Graham fell on a Todd Carney bomb with seconds left but the Cronulla side will take little comfort from narrowly avoiding being held scoreless for the second time in three weeks as they recorded their fifth loss of the season.
 
Manly Sea Eagles 24 (S Matai 2, J Taufua, B Lawrence, P Hiku tries; J Lyon 2 goals) def Cronulla Sharks 4 (Graham try) at Brookvale Oval. Crowd: 9065.