Daly Cherry-Evans starred as the Sharks faltered in Manly's impressive 35-18 win over the defending premiers at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
DCE does his Origin hopes no harm
His name mightn't be on Maroons coach Kevin Walters's radar, but Queensland hopeful Daly Cherry-Evans did everything in his power to remind selectors that he can be the man to replace Johnathan Thurston for the State of Origin decider.
The Sea Eagles halfback was instrumental in his side's win with three try assists and a timely field goal and must surely be one of the frontrunners to add to his six Origin caps.
Cherry-Evans hasn't played for the Maroons since 2015 but there is no denying he's in career-best form at the moment.
"I understand the opportunity that's arisen in that side; I think the only thing I can do is show through the Manly side that I put my hand up," he said.
"With time comes experience, so I'd like to think I've become a better player. Only time will tell if I'm ready for Origin again."
Manly move into the top four
Manly's win was worth more than just the two competition points with the Sea Eagles leapfrogging the Sharks courtesy of their easier-than-expected triumph at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Written off by many after a disappointing 2016 campaign, the Sea Eagles have been the surprise packets of the competition and now sit just four points behind the ladder-leading Melbourne Storm.
"We always knew it was going to be tough. Coming to Cronulla is always difficulty, particularly with the side they've got. I was more worried about our performance and I thought the boys played really well," coach Trent Barrett said.
"It was one of the most important wins of the year."
Slow starts catch up with the Sharks
Their top-four standing allowed many to gloss over the cracks, but Cronulla's slow starts finally caught up with them on Sunday in a game even they couldn't steal at the death.
The Sharks had come from behind at half-time in their past five wins but couldn't make it six on the trot after they let the Sea Eagles open up an 18-0 lead after 24 minutes.
"The first 20 minutes was awful. Our first 20 minutes was something I haven't seen from this group. I think we had five play the balls after 20 minutes and it was because of what we did. We just dropped it and it was inexcusable," Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said.
"We were poor and they were good. That first 20 minutes was basically game over."
Flanagan refused to blame Wednesday night's State of Origin encounter for the loss, hinting he would have rested one of his representative quintet had they shown any signs of injury.
"The score probably indicates how they handled their back-up," he said.
´They all wanted to play and there were no players carrying little niggles. If they were carrying little niggles I would have rested them. That's not an excuse today."
Koroisau makes his coach very 'Api'
Trent Barrett paid tribute to pint-sized No.9 Apisai Koroisau for playing above his weight on a weekly basis yet still being able to be the glue that holds Manly's middle together.
Koroisau made 40 tackles in his second-straight 80-minute performance and played a key role in nullifying Valentine Holmes's powerful kick returns.
"He's a machine. He's unbelievable. I love him to death," Barrett said.
"He holds our middle together, he just turns up, and up and up, and I reckon he made four or five tackles on Val Holmes through the middle of the ruck and he's a huge threat.
"Api cleans up a lot of things that people don't see and he's also very clever with the ball and very underrated, but certainly not to us."
Barrett lauded for turning things around
While a lot of the post-game attention was focussed on Cherry-Evans, the Sea Eagles halfback was quick to deflect praise back on his coach.
Barrett came under some scrutiny in 2016 after Manly finished a lowly 13th in his first year in charge, but a new roster that has largely stayed injury free has seen the proud northern beaches club soar into the top four to emerge as a genuine premiership threat.
"I believe the best sides in the competition are playing for a coach that they appreciate and believe in," Cherry-Evans said.
"That's certainly not to say that we didn't think that last year; it was probably more personnel last season.
"Trent is starting to assemble a squad that he believes in and a squad that he believes has the ability to win games and he's starting to put that expectation on us on a weekly basis. When a coach believes in you as much as that, I'd like to think that a player will go out and do everything he possibly can to reward his coach."