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The Manly Sea Eagles have overcome a six point halftime deficit to defeat the Cronulla Sharks 32 points to 26, retaining the Steve Rogers cup, and more importantly, nabbing two competition points and a spot in the NRL top eight.
The night didn't start well for the defending premiers, with a lost ball on just the third tackle of the match proving costly at Matthew Wright dotted down in the second minute to open the scoring for the home team.
Eight minutes later and it was a carbon copy of the first try, with Blake Ferguson losing the ball close to his line, and Manly capitalised through much maligned State of Origin winger David Williams.
Manly received their first penalty of the contest in the 15th, and immediately took advantage, with Brent Kite spinning out of a tackle close to the line to score.
The Sharks then retaliated with the longest try of the game, a 60 metre movement that started with a long ball out to Luke Covell on the wing, who then stepped back inside and found Trent Barrett, who put Anthony Tupou into a yawning gap, who then found Ben Pomeroy on the opposite wing for the try.
The try came at a cost, though, with Tupou straight off the field and up the tunnell with a possible hamstring injury.
Cronulla hit the lead once again in the 26th, with Ferguson atoning for his earlier mistake by chasing through and plating down a kick to the corner.
Both teams traded similar tries over the next five minutes, with an early dropped ball by Wright providing Kieran Foran with his try, then a dropped ball from the Eagles giving Cronulla a chance to score the try of the night, in which Ferguson received the ball on the wing and, under heavy pressure from Williams, somehow managed to keep his feet in play long enough to lob the ball back to Pomeroy who, under similar pressure, managed to plant the ball down just inside the corner post.
Both teams had one more chance each to add to the score, but failed to do so, sending us into half time with the home side leading 18 points to 16.
Coming out of the break, Manly set about playing like a premiership title contender, with Origin Man of the Match Anthony Watmough featuring heavily.
Watmough made the break in the 50th minute that led to fellow Origin teammate Barrett being binned for a professional foul in preventing Watmough from playing the ball quickly.
With the Sharks down to twelve for the next ten minutes, it wasn't long before they were found out, with George Rose finding himself with the ball and an open tryline infront of him in the 51st minute.
To their credit, the Sharks defence picked up, and showed signs of the starch-packed defensive outfit that almost made the Grand Final in 2008.
They weren't able to contain the Sea Eagles relentless attack, though, which finally broke through in the 71st with a simple scrum play providing Tony Williams with a try.
This was soon followed up with the match sealing four pointer in the 75th to Matt Ballin, before Luke Covell grabbed a consolation try in the dying moments of the match.
Manly Sea Eagles 32 def Cronulla Sharks 26
Round 19 - Saturday July 18th, 2009 07:30pm Venue: Toyota Stadium Referee: Steve Lyons & Alan Shortall
Sideline Officials: Daniel Eastwood & Mohamad Fajajo
Video Referee: Paul Simpkins Crowd: 10,114 Halftime: Sharks 18-16
Cronulla Sharks 26
Tries: Matthew Wright, Ben Pomeroy (2), Blake Ferguson, Luke Covell
Goals: Luke Covell (3/6)
Manly Sea Eagles 32
Tries: David Williams, Brent Kite, Kieran Foran, George Rose, Tony Williams, Matt Ballin
Goals: Matt Orford (4/7)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles) 2 Points: Matt Ballin (Sea Eagles) 1 Point: Kade Snowden (Sharks)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Talk about the game as it happens - Sharks v Sea Eagles forum discussion - click here!
Good evening and welcome to Toyota Stadium for tonights clash between the Cronulla Sharks and the Manly Sea Eagles.
Changes for the teams are as follows: SHARKS: The home side are as per program SEA EAGLES: For the visitors, Chris Bailey is out. Jamie Lyon moves from the centres to 5/8, and Kieran Foran moves from the bench to the centres. Brent Kite starts the game, with Josh Perry going back to the bench, and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves rounds out the bench.
SHARKS: 1. Nathan Stapleton 2. Blake Ferguson 3. Ben Pomeroy 4. Matthew Wright 5. Luke Covell 6. Trent Barrett 7. Scott Porter 8. Kade Snowden 9. Corey Hughes 10. Luke Douglas 11. Reece Williams 12. Grant Millington 13. Anthony Tupou Interchange: 14. Jack Afamasaga 15. Johnny Mannah 16. Mitch Brown 17. Terence Seu Seu SEA EAGLES: 1. Michael Robertson 2. Tony Williams 14. Kieran Foran 4. Ben Farrar 5. David Williams 6. Chris Bailey 7. Matt Orford (c) 8. Jason King 9. Matt Ballin 15. Brent Kite 11. Anthony Watmough 12. Glenn Hall 13. Glenn Stewart Interchange: 10. Josh Perry 16. George Rose 17. Vic Mauro 21. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
0 min: And we're underway! Sea Eagles to have first use of the ball.
1 min: Manly cough the ball up on just the third tackle. Cronulla will have the head and feed and first scoring opportunity of the game.
2 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Sharks Try... Possible try to the Sharks, just checking for a knock on and the grounding.
2 min: TRY Cronulla Sharks A cross field kick from Barrett is knocked back by Covell and touched down by Williams. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell unsuccessful. Cronulla Sharks 4-0
4 min: Some of the emotion from Wednesday night looks to have spilled over into tonights game as Jason King and Luke Douglas go toe to toe in backplay.
4 min: PENALTY - Sharks: King gets penalised as the instigator, and the Sharks will get a chance to go back to back.
5 min: PENALTY - Sharks: Glenn Hall gives away a penalty right in front of the posts, and Covell will take the shot at goal.
6 min: PENALTY GOAL Cronulla Sharks
Cronulla Sharks 6-0
8 min: Ferguson has had a Barry Crocker in going back to collect the kick and knocked it on ten out from his own line. Great opportunity for the Sea Eagles here.
9 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Sea Eagles Try... Orford dribbled the grubber through and Wolfman Williams is claming the try. Simpkins just checking to see if the Sharks planted the ball first.
9 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Following his poor performance on Wednesday night, David Williams has gone about making amends at club level in the best possible way, beating Ferguson in the race for the ball. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford successful. 6 all
14 min: Cronulla struggling to get out of their own end, with the Manly defence muscling up early.
15 min: PENALTY - Sea Eagles: Manly get their first penalty of the game through a high shot, and have an excellent opportunity to hit the lead.
16 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles An opportunity that they certainly didn't waste, with Brent Kite spinning out of a tackle to fall over the line. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford successful. Manly Sea Eagles 12-6
19 min: Barrett hoofs the ball downfield and into touch three out from the line, giving his troops a chance to rest up and set their defence.
21 min: PENALTY - Sharks: A relieving penalty for Cronulla here after Orford goes a bit too high on Ferguson.
21 min: A big hit by Watmough on Mannah has left Watmough a bit worse for wear.
22 min: TRY Cronulla Sharks A great try here from the Sharks coming as a result of a 60 metre movement that started with Barrett firing a loooooooong ball out to Covell on the wing. Covell collected the ball, ran and stepped his way back inside before finding Barrett who puts Tupou into a big gap, racing away until the cover defence arrives at which point he offloads to Pomeroy for the try. A great try, soured by the news that Tupou has immediately left the field and gone up the tunnel. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell successful. 12 all
24 min: PENALTY - Sharks: Another penalty for Cronulla, and they have a chance to hit the lead once again.
26 min: TRY Cronulla Sharks A kick is put through to the corner and Ferguson wins the race for the try. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell successful. Cronulla Sharks 18-12
27 min: A mistake from Wright in the play the ball has given Manly a chance to hit straight back.
28 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Sea Eagles Try...
28 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Foran takes the inside ball and dives over adjacent to the posts. Orford, with the chance to level things up, has hooked it from almost right in front. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford unsuccessful. Cronulla Sharks 18-16
30 min: Another early dropped ball by the team that just scored, with Manly gifting Cronulla a golden chance to build on their lead.
31 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Sharks Try... Ferguson looks to have performed a miracle in keeping the ball alive for the try.
31 min: TRY Cronulla Sharks Barrett fires the ball out to Ferguson on the wing, who gets shoulder charged by Williams towards touch but, somehow, manages to keep both feet in play long enough to lob the ball over to Pomeroy, who dots down before himself being thrown into touch. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell successful. Cronulla Sharks 22-16
35 min: PENALTY - Sharks: Hughes finds Perry out at marker, and Cronulla get a golden opportunity to score just before half time.
37 min: PENALTY - Sea Eagles: Manly survive the attacking raid, and get a penalty to help them out of trouble.
HALF TIME It's half time here at Toyota Stadium in an entertaining match that has seen the lead change hands three times. It's been an open and free flowing game, with defence not really playing a part for either team as they let their attack do the talking. In saying that, most of the scoring opportunities have come from lost balls, including three tries in a six minute period that came off the back of a lost ball from the scoring team on their restart set.
50 min: Following some minor technical difficulties we're back online, just as Watmough makes a massive break upfield, gets tackled by the cover defence then Barrett cops ten in the bin for a professional foul.
51 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles George Rose as just scored the easiest try of his career, collecting it two out from the line with absolutely no-one in front of him. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford successful. 22 all
56 min: PENALTY - Cronulla: A relieving penalty for the Sharks, who have been struggling without Tupou and Barrett.
58 min: Cronulla lose the ball, and now have one more minute to defend their line with 12 players on the field.
61 min: Sensational goal line defence from the Sharks has held out the Sea Eagles unconvincing attacking line.
63 min: PENALTY - Sea Eagles: Douglas collects a Manly player high, and Manly will get another set on the Cronulla line.
66 min: PENALTY - Sea Eagles: Covell collects a grubber, but loses it forward into Millington, who gives away the penalty for being offside.
67 min: ATTEMPTED PENALTY GOAL Manly Sea Eagles Matt Orford has missed his second kick from almost in front. 22 all
69 min: Lyon loses the ball forward and the crowd applauds their teams defensive line, having repelled multiple attacking raids from the Eagles for most of the half.
70 min: Now Stapleton has thrown a forward pass after double pumping the ball on his own 25.
71 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Stapletons error proves costly, as the Sea Eagles go wide off the scrum and Tony Williams dives over in the corner to place the Eagles in the box seat to take the points tonight. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford unsuccessful. Manly Sea Eagles 26-22
74 min: PENALTY - Sea Eagles: Cronulla start to lift in defence, however get a bit overenthusiastic and give the Sea Eagles a chance to wrap this game up.
75 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Sea Eagles Try... Ballin is claiming the match-sealer, just checking on grounding.
75 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles On the back of a quick play the ball, Ballin takes advantage of the scattered defensive line and dives over to take the two points for Manly. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford successful. Manly Sea Eagles 32-22
79 min: TRY Cronulla Sharks Covell flies high over Williams to grab a consolation try for the home team. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell unsuccessful. Manly Sea Eagles 32-26
FULL TIME It's full time here at Toyota Park, with the Manly Sea Eagles overcoming a half time deficit to take the Steve Rogers cup and, more importantly, the two competition points with a 32 points to 26 victory over the Cronulla Sharks.