Sea Eagles v Sharks: Five key points
Contrasting halves pairings, Manly field arguably their best side, and the top eight calculations for each side. The key points to come from the Sea Eagles' big win over the Sharks on Sunday afternoon.
Clarity for halves means clarity for Manly
With the futures of Manly's star halves pairing finally sorted out, they carried their off-field stability into another strong on-field performance.
Asked if having the off-field turmoil out of the way helped them on the pitch, Manly coach Geoff Toovey said "it probably does".
"They're both quality players they're both determined and driven players, they want to turn up each week no matter what," he said.
"A bit of clarity will help them individually but I think they've been pretty good for us all year.
"It's about getting them on the park together and getting those combinations going."
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said that the Manly team could challenge anyone "with their halves and Brett Stewart at the back".
Disrupted halves hurt Sharks
While the Sea Eagles had cohesion and clarity throughout their playmaking stocks on Sunday afternoon, it was a far different story for the Sharks with in-form hooker Michael Ennis out suspended.
"It stuffs up our rotation there, we had to make one [change] there with Benny [Barba] and put Robson into hooker for a while," Flanagan said.
"There's no cohesion. 'Robbo' [Robson] has been there all year as a half and all of a sudden he's at hooker.
"When you have to play around with your halves and your hooker it certainly throws that consistency out of whack.
"Mick's been tremendous for us this year. He really controls that ruck with his experience that allows 'Robbo' and Jack Bird to take a step back and do their role better."
Toovey doesn't want to do top eight maths
Geoff Toovey is a qualified accountant but he certainly doesn't want to be doing any maths when it comes to his team's final aspirations.
"When you start talking mathematically that's when I start getting worried," Toovey said when asked about the mathematical chance of his team making the top eight come season's end.
In the absence of any assistance from Toovey, the Sea Eagles will likely have to win seven of their last nine to qualify for the finals after their victory over the Sharks.
"We need to start getting a few wins in a row," Toovey said.
"We're not used to being down here, in saying that it's a very tough competition as we all know.
"We just have to win as many games as we can, particularly our home games."
Cronulla have to restart their push for the eight
After a poor start to the season, the Cronulla Sharks were flying high with three straight wins coming into Sunday afternoon's match.
However their push took a small setback with the loss to the competition cellar dwellers.
And the journey doesn’t get any easier next week as Flanagan's men take on the Dragons, a team that put a big score on them last time out.
"It's a real challenge for me as a coach and the playing group to find that consistency," Flanagan said after the loss.
"It's a real challenge, you need to put big blocks of three and four wins together."
Manly finally getting their best team back
The Sea Eagles had some big inclusions for Sunday afternoon's match with Willie Mason returning from a virus and Jamie Lyon overcoming a hamstring injury sustained in Round 13 against the Broncos.
Having used 28 different players so far this season, having a few key players back is big news for an outfit looking to make a late run to the finals.
"We were still a bit short if you saw a few of the combinations out there," Toovey said.
"We're still a bit rusty so the more we can get that same team on the park each week the better off we'll be."
Lyon, who provided a stabilising influence on the Manly left side reassured his coach with news that his hamstring was feeling good.
"It felt good just to get through the game and get 80 minutes out," he said.
"I'm sure it will get better each week."
Matt Ballin came off the field with a sore rib but should be fine for next week.