Stewart return inspires Manly win
Manly has won its first game of the 2016 NRL Telstra Premiership with a gutsy 22-12 win over Cronulla at Brookvale Oval on Monday night.
The 10-point loss was Cronulla's 33rd defeat from 39 matches at the venue, easily their worst record at any ground in the NRL.
The Trbojevic brothers were outstanding for Manly, both crossing for a try in a game that will help new coach Trent Barrett sleep well tonight.
Tom ran for 196 metres in his first game on the wing in 2016, while Jake was rock-solid in defence, racking up 45 tackles.
Monday night's win could be soured with Martin Taupau in strife for a high shot on Jack Bird in the 32nd minute. The Sharks centre didn't return to the field after being concussed from the heavy hit.
Michael Ennis started game 250 in style, forcing a line dropout in the opening minute after some enterprising play from Ben Barba on the last.
After defusing the Ennis grubber, Steve Matai couldn't do the same from the ensuing set, spilling a James Maloney cross-field kick into the waiting arms of Luke Lewis to give Cronulla a very early lead.
The Sharks' early dominance continued, receiving back-to-back penalties to gift Maloney another two points.
Having conceded another penalty, Manly finally touched the ball for the first time nearly 10 minutes into the game. By that stage they had made 57 tackles to none.
After all their work in defence, Manly incredibly could have scored with their first set of six. A penalty put them in great field position, but for the second Monday night game in a row, Jamie Lyon tried to set up a teammate when he could have scored himself.
The one-sided possession statistics in the first-half were worrying, with Andrew Fifita boasting more metres in the first 14 mins than the entire Manly team.
Trent Barrett's men were desperately unlucky to not get on the board 21 minutes into the contest, after Daly Cherry-Evans crossed out wide, only for the referees to rule the final pass from Tom Trbojevic forward.
Seven minutes later, Trbojevic accepted a lofted cut-out pass from his halfback to touch down on virtually the same blade of grass, but the referees ruled Tom Symonds had obstructed Maloney from getting to the Manly No.7.
That decision riled the local fans, who had been denied only moments earlier by the Bunker after Dylan Walker lost the ball before Matt Parcell dotted down.
After going close so many times, Manly finally cracked the Sharks' defence, and despite some conjecture, the officials agreed. An offload from Siosaia Vave was intercepted by Lewis near on his own line, but the Cronulla back-rower lost it in contact, allowing Parcell to score his first NRL try for Manly.
An action packed start to the second stanza saw both teams disallowed tries in the space of two minutes at either end.
The Sharks were the first to see red from the Bunker, after Ricky Leutele was adjudged to have promoted the ball illegally. From the next set, Taupau went close, but couldn't ground a Walker grubber cleanly.
After soaking up so much early pressure, Manly hit the lead eight minutes into the second-half, through Brett Stewart.
In his first game of the season, the 'Prince of Brookvale' took his tally to 87 tries from 95 games at the venue thanks to a one-two with Trbojevic that Barcelona players would have been proud of.
Cronulla had their chances to immediately hit back, but were denied twice in quick succession by some stoic Manly defence. First Fifita was held up over the line, and three minutes later, Ben Barba chipped-and-chased but couldn't regather the greasy Steeden.
Manly's efforts in defence were soon rewarded at the other end, with crowd-favourite Jake Trbojevic latching on to a flat pass from the returning Feleti Mateo to extend the lead after 57 minutes.
Having gone scoreless for an hour, the Sharks finally gave their fans some hope with a try to Valentine Holmes, who was the beneficiary of some nice play from the in-form Chad Townsend. Maloney's miss made it 18-12 with 15 minutes to play.
The Trbojevic brothers combined with seven minutes go to seal the breakthrough win. Jake laid the platform, belting Maloney to force an error, before Tom scooped up a loose ball to turbo his way to his first try of the season.
Manly Sea Eagles 22 (Matt Parcell, Brett Stewart, Jake Trbojevic, Tom Trbojevic tries; Jamie Lyon 3 goals) defeated Cronulla Sharks 12 (Luke Lewis, Valentine Holmes tries; James Maloney 2 goals) at Brookvale Oval. Half-time: 8-6 Sharks. Penalties: 107 Sharks. Crowd: 5,122. On report: Martin Taupau. Injuries: Bird (concussion).