Origin on cards as DCE inspires Manly win
Sea Eagles halfback Daly Cherry-Evans sent a gentle reminder to Queensland selectors with the Origin hopeful laying on three tries and nailing a field goal in his side's 35-18 win over the Sharks.
The Manly No.7 has been the forgotten man when it comes to discussions surrounding who should replace the injured Johnathan Thurston for the Origin decider but he was a cut above against the defending premiers, with Cherry-Evans easily winning his battle with Blues five-eighth James Maloney who missed seven tackles in the 17-point loss.
Cronulla's season has been built on gritty comeback wins at home, and while they threatened to mount a comeback with a couple of quick tries late in the first half, there would be no second-half heroics as the Sharks suffered another loss against their bogey team.
A bad afternoon was made worse for the hosts with rookie sensation Jayden Brailey forced from the field in the 48th minute and taken to hospital with a suspected broken jaw.
Fans were still pouring through the gates when Curtis Sironen charged onto a lovely short ball from Cherry-Evans to give Manly a dream start inside the opening two minutes.
The game quickly devolved into a scrap-fest with the teams combining for 14 errors and penalties in the opening 20 minutes only for the Sea Eagles to breathe life back into the contest with a classy try to Matthew Wright in the left corner moments after they'd turned down a shot at goal from next to the posts.
The visitors' ability to keep the ball alive saw them move 18 points in front when a late offload from Jake Trbojevic found his brother Tom, before linking with Cherry-Evans who turned it back inside to a hard-running Sironen who barged over for his second try of the afternoon.
Another error had the Sea Eagles peppering the Cronulla line, and just when it looked they would kill off the contest, veteran Luke Lewis wound back the clock to intercept a Cherry-Evans pass and run 80 metres to get his side on the board.
It proved to be the wake-up call the home side needed as they further ate into Manly's lead when Sosaia Feki finished off a slick set play from a penalty tap to dive over for a try in his 100th NRL game.
Just when it looked like the Sharks would have all the momentum at half-time, Cherry-Evans steadied the ship with the final play of the stanza with a field goal to give Manly a seven-point lead at the break.
Not even a successful half-time proposal could inspire the Sharks as they fell further behind when Manly's red-hot halfback floated a pass for Wright to stroll for his second try of the match.
Not content with playing second fiddle to his halves partner, Sea Eagles five-eighth Blake Green wrapped up the two competition points with a solo try 16 minutes from full-time to give his side an unassailable 19-point cushion.
The Sharks managed to peg one back through Wade Graham but it was Manly's day as Dylan Walker touched down at the death to seal the comfortable win.
Sea Eagles 35 (Curtis Sironen 2, Matthew Wright 2, Blake Green, Dylan Walker tries; Matthew Wright 5 goals; Daly Cherry-Evans field goal) def. Sharks 18 (Luke Lewis, Sosaia Feki, Wade Graham tries; James Maloney 3 goals) at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Half-time: 19-12. Crowd: 14,766
NRL.com unofficial points: 3 Daly Cherry Evans. 2. Martin Taupau. 1 Wade Graham