Daly Cherry-Evans has stamped his claims for Jonathan Thurston's vacant Queensland jersey after playing a starring role in Manly's dominant 35-18 win over the Sharks at Southern Cross Group Stadium this afternoon.
The Sea Eagles opened Sunday afternoon's clash in fast fashion, with Daly Cherry-Evans putting Curtis Sironen through for the first try off a perfectly executed short ball in the second minute. Both sides were guilty of an ill-disciplined start to this game with the home side in particular turning over plenty of possession and eventually the Sea Eagles made them pay. This time it was Tom Trbojevic who threw a perfect long ball to Matthew Wright who would force his way over in the corner.
Suddenly, the Sharks found themselves staring at an 18-0 deficit when a flurry of offloads saw Cherry-Evans take advantage of an overlap to sending Sironen spinning over. Only minutes later, Ricky Leutele came up with an error to gift Manly another chance to go further ahead.
Yet Luke Lewis would prove Cronulla's saviour, taking an intercept and running eight metres to send the home fans into delirium. Momentum was beginning to turn and Cronulla found themselves only ten metres out from the Manly line after Trbojevic fumbled a spiralling bomb.
Then, after being given a penalty, the Sharks pulled off a cheeky pre-prepared move with Wade Graham faking a hit-up and finding James Maloney on the short side who would send Sosaia Feki over untouched. A late error from the Sharks allowed the Sea Eagles to march up field and Cherry-Evans snatched a field goal to give his side a 19-12 lead at the break.
The home fans were treated to some half-time entertainment when a Cronulla fan proposed to his girlfriend. Yet, the newly engaged couple were denied the perfect engagement gift as the Sharks faltered in the second half.
Shane Flanagan's men still could not improve their handling in the early stages of the second half. A mistake from Jack Bird within his own 20 allowed Manly to build further pressure and DCE grabbed his third try-assist of the night when he sent Wright flying over for his second try in the 53rd minute. Soon after Blake Green took in the line and bumped off three defenders to score Manly's fifth try of the night.
A penalty for a late hit on Daniel Mortimer saw Cronulla finally post their first points of the second half when James Maloney took on the line and put Wade Graham through for a simple try. However, it would be the Sea Eagles who would have the final say - Feki dropped a towering bomb and Walker pounced on the loose ball to bamboozle the defence and crash over.
The Sharks face a stern test next week when they take on the 2nd placed Roosters at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Sea Eagles travel to New Zealand to face the Warriors in the game which follows.