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Andrew Walker must be thinking what he?s done to deserve the hand he?s been dealt this year, after failing to take a game to Golden Point extra time for the second time this season with Cronulla out-lasting Manly by 30-28 at Brookvale Oval.
In similar circumstances to the game earlier this year against Canterbury at Telstra Staduim, Walker was faced with a conversion close to the sideline to level the scores after a brilliant fightback from the Sea Eagles, who will count themselves unlucky today.
The match started with an early try to Cronulla through big five-eighth Paul Gallen due to some early cobwebs from Manly. However the home team hit back soon after through exciting young fullback Brent Stuart. This kid is being touted as something special and today he came of age and really stood up to be counted.
However, smart play from the visitors saw them run in two more tries in the first half through Phil Bailey on the edges of the ruck, and enigmatic fullback David Peachey with some basic dummying and jinking.
At oranges, with Cronulla leading Manly 14-6, I?m sure both coaches would have been scratching their respective heads. Stuart Raper had every right to feel like they were behind on the board after so many opportunities were bombed by the Sea Eagles, compounded by the fact Brett Kimmorley looked like he was kicking with the wrong foot. On the flipside, the mild-mannered Des Hasler would have smelt the opportunity presented to his team in the sheds and no doubt tried to ram that home to the mighty Eagles.
This appeared to be lost on the home team however, as the Sharks ran in the first two tries in the second half and certainly had this armchair critic thinking it would be a cricket score. Fortunately for Manly, defense was an ugly work for the visitors as well, and they piled on the tries courtesy of an inspirational upfield barge from big John Hopoate.
The at-times controversial winger lifted his teams spirits with a strong run and once the crowd got behind the Eagles, they were hard to suppress. Two sensational tries to Brent Stuart and Andrew Walker had people on the edge of their seats and cheering from the back of the hill. In all seriousness, make sure you watch a sports wrap this week, as they are not to be missed and I can only underscore their brilliance with my meager words.
The Sharks then hit back through Simmons via a Kimmorley grubber and although there was still eleven minutes on the clock, some hope did look lost.
Manly didn?t think so however, and once again Brent Stuart scored showing unbelievable pace that we associate with the likes of John Fergurson, Phil Blake and more recently Billy Slater. Soon after big Sam Harris bustled his way over the line with Steve ?Beaver? Menzies being heavily involved and setting up a possible Golden Point situation, which under the current momentum of the game, would have been hard to see Manly lose.
So Andrew Walker stepped up to the mark 10 out from the sideline, and I for one was cheering him on. But, thinking back to the Canterbury game earlier this year, I felt a cool chill go down the spine, and my fears were confirmed when I saw the touchie?s flags waved in a horizontal motion around knee-height.
And whilst the missed goal presented us with an anti-climax ending, at the end of the day the Sharks put on plenty of point to feel hard done by if they had of lost the encounter.
Andrew Walker gets best on ground today, and ever since his shift to five-eighth he?s proved to be a revelation for the Manly club. In a post-script to this exciting clash, Cronulla half-back Brett Kimmorley was put on report for a tackle in the 34th minute, but methinks he?ll get away with it, as it really wasn?t that bad.
SEA EAGLES 28 Tries: Stuart 3, Walker, Harris Goals: Walker 4/5 defeated by SHARKS 30 Tries: Gallen 2, Bailey, Peachey, Vagana, Simmons Goals: Kimmorley 3/6
Brookvale Oval Referee: Tim Mander
By the clock:
Kick-off in the first half by Manly.
3 min: NEWS - Hollingsworth for Manly held-up over the line after a promising attacking raid by the Sea Eagles.
8 min: TRY - Sharks. Cut-out play by Kimmorley sees Paul Gallen go over about 10 in from touch, Hopoate has a bit of a defensive lapse, as Peachey is involved in the lead-up to the try. Kimmorley converts and Cronulla lead Manly 6-0.
13 min: TRY - Manly. Haumono offloads in a tackle with a fair bit of attention for fullback Brent Stuart to hit a gap at pace and score next to the posts. Andrew Walker kicks it easily to level the scores at 6-all.
19 min: TRY - Sharks. Former International Phil Bailey scores out wide for the Sharks after a deep backline movement sees him on the end of a good pass. Kimmorley fails to convert his most difficult attempt of the day, and the score is 10-6 in favour of Cronulla.
28 min: NEWS - No try verdict given against the Sea Eagles. Video ref rules that the marker (Hollingsworth) impeded the attempted tackle. Penalty goes to Cronulla, big turnaround compared to how it could have been. Score remains 10-6 to the Sharkies. Fairly even contest thus far.
31 min: TRY - Sharks. Thanks to a relieving penalty conceded by Hoppa, Cronulla press Manly's line and Peachey strolls over after selling a simple dummy. Kimmorley misses a crucial goal, and the score now reads Cronulla 14 Manly 6, a few minutes before halftime.
38 min: NEWS - Promising attacking raid by Cronulla turns to nothing following a dropped ball. From the scrum Hoppa makes a good break with only Peachey to beat, and he gets a case of the dropsies too.
Cronulla leading a somewhat scrappy affair with tries to both sides being denied, plenty of dropped ball late in the half and a fair few poenalties being given. Cronulla a dominating and one gets the feeling they can go on with it if they stick to percentage play early in the second half. But it all depends on which Manly turn up on the field in 10 minutes. They are notorious for a Dr Jeckell and Mr Hyde mentality though, and could come out firing in the second half. They should probably be further behind on the board, and may well use that to their advantage here at Brooky.
Second half underway with a deep kick off from the Cronulla club.
42 min: TRY - Sharks. Gallen grabs his second following an intercept by flying winger Nathan Merritt. Gallant defence from Manly fails, as Cronulla take the game by the scruff of the neck. Kimmorley misses again and he's having a dismal day with the boot, keeping the Sea Eagle in the affair somewhat.
44 min: TRY - Sharks. Big off-season purchase Nigel Vagana gets around Albert Torrens easily from short range and scores the visitors fifth try of the afternoon. Manly looking woeful. Kimmorley finally gets one and the game looks out of reach for the home teams now. Cronulla 24 Manly 6
50 min: TRY - Manly. Flashy fullback Brent Stuart sets up a try for himself, finding Beaver Menzies in support and then backing up himself for the four-pointer. Manly on the board in the second half in style. Walker converts and the lead gets cut back to 12, Sharks 24 Sea Eagles 12.
55 min: TRY - Manly. Walker chips over the top and regathers, finds support on the inside from Anthony Whatmough, who draws Peachey and dishes back inside to Walker who dives over for the Maroon and Whites. Sensational stuff from the dual International whose switch back to five-eighth has proved vital to the Sea Eagles. Hoppa also playing well, an inspirational run earlier lifting team spirit. Walker converts his own try and the score is now Cronulla 24 Manly 18.
62 min: NEWS - Manly putting all sorts of pressure on Cronulla. Stifling defense and enterprising attack from the home team has very much re-ignited this contest.
69 min: TRY - Sharks. Grubber kick into the in-goal area sees Simmons bag a try for Cronulla and send the momentum of the game back their way. Kimmorley converts and Cronulla lead 30-18. Still a bit of time to go though.
73 min: TRY - Manly. Brent Stuart take a bow. The rookie fullback has just gone in for his third of the day, displaying cheetah-like speed of the mark. Walker hits the goal from the sideline in sensational fashion and sets up a great final six minutes. Cronulla 30 lead Manly 24.
78 min: TRY - Manly. Boom convert Sam Harris goes over the line after a break from Hollingsworth, supported by Menzies (who else?) and finished by the big forward. Walker misses the goal from 10 metres in from touch and it looks like they'll lose despite a strong second half showing. Cronulla 30 now lead Manly 28.
Cronulla come away with the two points, despite being on the end of a second half surge by a determined Manly club, and if it wasn't for a wayward conversion could well have found themselves in a golden point situation. Both teams played well collectively, but the Sharkies just hang on to register their 5th victory of the year.
_________________________________________________ Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - A Walker (Sea Eagles) 2 - P Gallen (Sharks) 1 - B Stuart (Sea Eagles) _________________________________________________