Cronulla's Sharks’ halves for round one of the Telstra Premiership might not be set in stone with four players putting their skills on display in the 30-14 win over the Manly Sea Eagles at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan started with what is expected to be his round one halves combination of Chad Townsend and Matt Moylan. For the second half he wiped the slate clean and put his son Kyle Flanagan and Newcastle recruit Trent Hodkinson into the mix.
Flanagan set up the Sharks’ fourth try with a deft pass to back-rower Briton Nikora on the burst, while Hodkinson set up the Sharks’ fifth effort with a grubber for Edrick Lee to put down in the north-west corner.
Moylan scored his first points for his new club by converting the Sharks first try in the 16th minute.
The former Penrith Panthers captain made some of his lovely across field forays, with the innate knack of releasing the ball right at the line. He also had a couple of handling errors when he wasn’t under pressure. But he and Townsend looked comfortable together for a first outing.
So now all eyes will be on who Shane Flanagan names in next Saturday’s final trial against the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown.
Manly jumped out to an 8-0 lead but were reeled in by Cronulla, who led 10-8 at halftime. By fulltime it was a six tries to three drubbing.
The second half was all Cronulla although Lloyd Perrett scored in the 75th minute, or more than an hour after their opening flurry.
Another new recruit, former South Sydney Rabbitohs winger Aaron Gray, drew the defence nicely playing left centre to put Sosaia Feki over in corner in the first half. But touch judges ruled Feki put a foot over the sideline.
In the second half a precise grubber by Gray trapped Manly in their own in-goal. The Sharks scored off the next set when Flanagan set up Nikora.
Manly appeared to have the greater appetite early scoring two quick tries inside the opening 10 minutes – both to winger Brad Parker and both off sublime corner kicks by halfback Cade Cust and then hooker Manase Fainu. Both players were part of Manly’s 2017 Holden Cup premiership-winning team.
Cronulla were having difficulty finding their way out of their own 30 metre zone. But they eventually got on the scoreboard through last year’s leading Holden Cup try scorer Siona Katoa in the 16th minute and centre Jesse Ramien in the 31st. Katoa and Ramien were two of five Sharks players from the side that won the Under-20s minor premiership last year.
On paper the Sharks looked far stronger, particularly when hooker Jayden Brailey and fullback Valentine Holmes completed the expected 2018 spine in the opening half.
That contrasted with Manly who has rested their potential 1-6-7-9 of Tom Trbojevic, new Canberra signing Lachlan Croker, halfback and captain Daly Cherry-Evans and hooker Apisai Koroisau,
However, the Sharks have also given the night off to several of their big-names, including 2018 co-captains Paul Gallen, Wade Graham, along’ with fellow forwards Andrew Fifita, Matt Prior and Luke Lewis.