The Sharks broke a 14-year hoodoo to secure a top four berth in their first season under the coaching of Craig Fitzgibbon with a 40-6 defeat of the Sea Eagles at 4Pines Park on Saturday night.
The seven tries to one win was the first time Cronulla players have left the Northern Beaches with two competition points since 2008 and just their sixth triumph in 41 visits to Manly since joining the premiership in 1967.
It also officially put paid to any hope of the Sea Eagles making the finals after their fourth consecutive defeat.
Manly's sole try by captain Daly Cherry-Evans in the 77th minute staved off the equal worst defeat at Brookvale in the club's history but it was easily Cronulla's biggest win at the ground - eclipsing their 27-18 victory in 1974.
Cronulla halfback Nicho Hynes was the star of the match, scoring 20 points from two tries and six conversions, while producing two try assists and a 40/20 kick.
Hynes the pinball wizard
Winger Matt Ikuvalu also scored two tries and ran a game high 220 metres with the ball, while fullback Lachlan Miller ran 197 metres and had 10 tackle breaks.
The Sharks remain equal second with the Cowboys on 34 points and are two ahead of the Storm, with the Eels a further two points adrift and the only team outside the top four with any chance of securing a second chance in the finals.
Match: Sea Eagles v Sharks
Round 23 -
Venue: 4 Pines Park, Sydney
- There were early signs that Hynes was in for a big night when he beat Sea Eagles fullback Tolutau Koula to a Matt Moylan chip kick that rebounded off the right goalpost pad to score in the seventh minute.
- Star forward Dale Finucane was forced from the field five minutes later with a rib injury sustained in a bruising Haumole Olakau’atu tackle but his absence made little difference as Royce Hunt crashed over in the 17th minute.
Royce Hunt activates beast mode
- After returning from a quad injury, Matt Moylan showed no lingering fitness issues when he dummied and stepped inside Manly rookie Kurt De Luis to score in the 28th minute.
- A try to winger Matt Ikuvalu on the last play of the first half gave the Sharks a 22-0 lead at the interval and their dominance continued after the teams returned from the break.
Moylan spins and reaches out
- Manly's first real scoring opportunity came early in the second half when Olakau’atu pushed off Moylan and Connor Tracey before sending Koula racing away.
- Koula toed ahead but the ball hit the goalpost and was dived on by veteran Cronulla prop Aidan Tolman before a 40/20 kick by Hynes got the Sharks out of trouble.
Hynes nails 40/20
- Hynes scored his second try in the 54th minute after Moylan combined with prop Andrew Fifita, who put the playmaker over with a perfectly timed offload.
- Nikora then got into the act two minutes later after Ikuvalu batted back a Hynes cross-field kick and the Kiwis second-rower picked up the loose ball to score.
Nikora backs up and scores
- Ikuvalu grabbed his second try of the match eight minutes before fulltime after wing opposite Alfred Smalley fumbled a Lachie Miller grubber kick in Manly's in-goal.
- However, Sea Eagles captain Daly Cherry-Evans ensured his team didn't suffer the ignominy of being held scoreless when he intercepted a Braydon Trindall pass to Wade Graham and raced away for a 77th minute try.
DCE intercepts to get a try
Play of the game
The class and vision of Nicho Hynes was highlighted with a long pass that cut out second-rower Briton Nikora and centre Jesse Ramien to put winger Matt Ikuvalu over for a try on the stroke of halftime.
Nicho Hynes is looking sharp
What they said
"It was a disappointing result, a disappointing effort. We spoke really clearly too about the opportunity that comes with playing in the Manly jersey and the 17. They are opportunities that are hard to come by and it has got to be a reality for us over the coming weeks. We've got quite a bit of talent now on the sideline, as well. There's 13 players that could have played tonight that didn't. We won't use that as an excuse. We had 17 players out there tonight, an opportunity to win a game of footy. It's more about our performance that was the disappointing part. It's not up to standard. It is just those effort areas that we are letting ourselves down," - Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler.
Sea Eagles: Round 23
"It was real important for us tonight with it being the Steve Rogers Cup that we played strongly for that. He was an important part of our club. Also, the history of coming to Brookvale was another challenge for us so we had plenty of reasons to get up for tonight. If you look at it on a game-by-game basis, did we perform whit what we were trying to achieve tonight? Yep. Can we improve on what we did tonight? Yep. Are we happy with where we are at, or do we think we are where we need to be? We need more, we are searching for more, we are finding more and we will need to find more," - Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon.
Sharks: Round 23
Manly travel to Canberra next Saturday to take on the Raiders before finishing the season with an away match against the Bulldogs, while Cronulla continue their campaign for a top four spot against Canterbury (home) and Newcastle (away).
The Sea Eagles have a huge injury toll, with Jake and Tom Trbojevic, Reuben Garrick and Jason Saab among eight players who won't play again this season as coach Des Hasler looks ahead to 2023.
Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon is set to welcome back centre Siosifa Talakai from a shoulder injury next Saturday, while fullback Will Kennedy (ankle) and prop Toby Rudolf (knee) are due to return in the finals.
Dale Finucane suffered a rib injury early in the match and was needled up before returning in the second half, while Connor Tracey suffered a HIA.