Cronulla too good for Manly in NYC
The Cronulla Sharks have returned to the Holden Cup winner's circle with a convincing 30-16 win over the Sea Eagles at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
An anomaly in the draw – caused by a postponed game in Round 3 – meant this was the second time in the space of 14 days that these sides met, with the Sharks able to reverse the 22-16 defeat they suffered at Brookvale Oval a fortnight ago.
The Sea Eagles started both halves with plenty of vigour but couldn't maintain the pressure as they remain last on the ladder through 11 rounds.
The Sea Eagles had all the running in the opening exchanges with halfback Luke Polselli held up in the 13th minute before Brad Parker crossed shortly after to give them a deserved early lead.
That try seemed to wake up the home side with the Sharks going on a feeding frenzy to race in three unanswered tries in the space of nine minutes to open up a commanding 14-point lead.
The first came after 22 minutes courtesy of a tried-and-tested combination when skipper Jayden Brailey linked up with Jayden McDonogh to send the lock forward over for his fifth try of the year.
Cronulla crossed from the next set after a kick from Rhys Davies looked to have been covered by Sea Eagles fullback Tom Wright only for the fullback to lose the ball in his own in-goal. Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga fell on the Steeden and then kicked the goal to make it 12-4.
The onslaught continued five minutes later when a slick move to the right put Sharks No.1 Will Kennedy in space down the right before the fullback dummied through the line to score next to the posts.
The Sea Eagles would have copped an 18-4 scoreline at the break but had their hearts broken on the stroke of half-time as Lachlan Stein burrowed over from dummy to give the hosts a commanding 20-point cushion at the break.
Chad Randall's half-time speech must have struck a nerve because the Sea Eagles emerged from the sheds a totally different side scoring two tries inside five minutes to breathe life into the contest.
A glorious cut out pass from Wright sent winger Tevita Funa over just two minutes into the second stanza before the Sea Eagles backline combined for one of the tries of the year.
From the next set Cade Cust released Funa with another brilliant pass. The winger then sent it back to Cust who turned the defence inside out before linking up with John Tasi Tuivaiti who hurled it right to find Jesse Ramien before the centre linked up with his winger to cap off a spectacular team try.
That's as close as the visitors would get as the Sharks hit back 20 minutes from full-time to seal their first win in three weeks.
The combination of Brailey and McDonogh proved too hot to handle close to the line for the second time before the Sea Eagles hit back 10 minutes later through Jayden El-Jalkh, whose second try of the night finished off the scoring.
Sharks 30 (Jayden McDonogh 2, Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga, Will Kennedy, Lachlan Stein tries; Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga 4, Rhys Kennedy 1 goals) defeated Sea Eagles 16 (Jayden El-Jalkh 2, Brad Parker, Tevita Funa, tries; goals) at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Half-time: 24-4 Sharks.