Sea Eagles stun the Sharks in NYC boilover
The Cronulla Sharks have been knocked out of the Holden Cup finals in straight sets after the minor premiers were smashed 42-22 by the Sea Eagles at ANZ Stadium.
Having won 15 matches in a row during the regular season, many people were calling them the greatest team in NYC history, but four losses on the trot put an end to that debate with Cronulla's quest for a maiden premiership over much earlier than anyone could have predicted.
They might have finished the regular season in eighth place but the Sea Eagles played like premiership favourites with five-eighth Tom Wright the hero with three tries as Manly booked a date with the Dragons for a place in the grand final.
The Sharks couldn't have asked for a better start with former Sea Eagle Jesse Ramien slicing through off a simple scrum play to open the scoring inside three minutes.
It didn't take long for Manly to strike back when Wright grubbered through and then produced a stunning one-on-one strip to level the scores after 10 minutes.
They might have snuck into the top eight but Manly were playing like world-beaters as Wright bamboozled the defence with some twinkle toes to complete his first-half double before prop Jaiden Tarrant finished off some enterprising play close to the line to leave the minor premiers reeling.
With his side on the ropes, Sharks skipper Billy Magoulias came up with a much-needed piece of magic as he showed amazing reflexes to reel in a Blayke Brailey grubber that cannoned into the upright to cut the gap to six points.
Just when you thought Cronulla were back, Sea Eagles fullback Jade Anderson pushed the lead back out to two converted tries when he powered his way through some flimsy defence on the goal-line to give his side a handy buffer at the break.
The change of ends did little to halt Manly's momentum as winger Alfred Smalley did his best Superman impression with a flying effort in the right corner that defied gravity to make it 28-12 before Wright killed off the contest with another audacious one-on-one strip to put the exclamation mark on a sensational hat-trick.
Not content to coast into the preliminary final, Manly continued to twist the knife as back-rower Josh Martin strolled over courtesy of a short ball from Manase Fainu before Sione Katoa pegged one back for the Sharks off another scrum set play.
Set to move to the Northern Beaches next season, Sharks five-eighth Luke Metcalf gave his current club a glimmer of hope with a scintillating solo try but any thoughts of a miracle comeback came to a halt when Ryan King lost the ball over the line.
Fittingly it was the victors who had the last laugh when lock Haumole Olakau'atu claimed a short line dropout, turned around and was stunned to see no one in front of him as he raced away for his 15th try of the season.
Sea Eagles 42 (Tom Wright 3, Jaiden Tarrant, Jade Anderson, Alfred Smalley, Josh Martin, Haumole Olakau'atu tries; Tevita Funa 5 goals) def. Sharks 22 (Jesse Ramien, Billy Magoulias, Sione Katoa, Luke Metcalf tries; Kyle Flanagan 3 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Half-time: 24-12.