Ahead of Friday's #NRL game between Penrith Panthers and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, writer Rob C...
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Cronulla have done it again. On a wet Monday night, they have upset the defending premiers, this time Manly, 17-14 in front of 8,654 diehards at Toyota Park.
The rain started falling before kick-off which is customary for a Cronulla home game but the strong start was something new for the Sharks especially this season.
Cronulla came out with venom, bending the Sea Eagles back. They were denied in the 7th minute for a Gardener knock on but weren't denied when Jason Bukuya crashed over after some second phase play in the 11th minute. Carney converted to make it 6-0 early doors.
The Sea Eagles for their part though were contributing to their downfall, with Tony Williams largely taking liberties into his own hands. He was pinged for a spear tackle then a penalty which led to Cronulla's second try, Nathan Gardener crossing to make it 12-0 and the hint of an upset.
It went from being the scent of an upset to a full scale ambush when Ben Pomeroy crossed when the second phase play, caught Manly unaware once more to the roar of a small but dedicated faithful at Toyota Stadium who were delirious at 16 points to nothing.
Todd Carney added the icing to the Shark's dominance of the opening half when he potted a field goal right on halftime to have the fans, standing up and clapping the Sharks off the field, leading 17-0.
From the opening whistle of the second half, it seemed it was the same song repeating when Manly dropped it on their first set but finally settled into a groove on the fifty minute.
On the 63rd minute, they finally troubled the scorers when Michael Oldfield finished off a simple move and Manly had opened the door slightly at 17-4 to a comeback which didn't seem likely beforehand.
The door went from slightly open to wide open when Brett Stewart produced a magnificent effort to ground a Kieran Foran kick to not only score the Sea Eagle's 2nd try but shift the momentum at 17 points to 10 with five minutes to go.
Manly showed some great resolve to keep the ball alive and find Michael Oldfield in the open to touch down for his brace and get Manly within a field goal if Lyon could convert.
He couldn't and despite one final chance in the dying embers of the game, Cronulla withstood the onslaught to run out 17 points to 14 winners and seal their first win of 2012.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 17 defeated Manly Sea Eagles 14
National Rugby League - Round 3 - Monday March 19, 2012 7:00pm
Venue: Toyota Stadium
Referee: Ben Cummins and Gerard Sutton
Video Referee: Bernard Sutton
Touch Judges: Russell Turner and Chris Butler
Halftime: Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 17 Manly Sea Eagles 0
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Jason Bukuya (1 Try)
2 Points - Paul Gallen
1 Point - Jeff Robson
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks (17)
Tries: Ben Pomeroy, Jason Bukuya, Nathan Gardner
Field Goals: Todd Carney (1/1)
Conversions: Todd Carney (2/3)
Manly Sea Eagles (14)
Tries: Brett Stewart, Michael Oldfield (2)
Conversions: Jamie Lyon (1/3)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Join the conversation - follow LeagueUnlimited on Twitter and tweet about the match using the Official Hashtag = #NRLcroman.
You can also discuss the match with thousands of other fans in our Game Day Forums - click here. Team news is in for #NRLcroman and there has been quite the shuffle in the Sharks line up.
Bryce Gibbs is out, Paul Gallen will start at prop with Wade Graham taking his lock position. Sam Tagataese coming onto the bench.
Manly are one through to seventeen.
Some amazing scenes happening in the Toyota Cup curtain raiser tonight. Cronulla have created a new record for the largest winning margin in NYC history (68) in defeating Manly, 78-10.
The team's are making their way onto the field, we're not far from kick-off. Here we go!
3 min: First error of the game goes to Kieran Foran who was hammered as he was tackled.
3 min: Safe option there from Jeff Robson, putting in goal and forcing Brett Stewart to bat it dead.
For the first time tonight, we're going upstairs to check if Nathan Gardener has scored.
5 min: NO TRY! Gardener has spilled the ball, over the line. Tap restart to Manly.
5 min: Tony Williams is hit hard in the tackle and the ball is dislodged. Another great attacking position for the Sharks.
6 min: Penalty, Cronulla chasers were offside from the kick.
8 min: Tony Williams have been watching some WWE Raw in preparation for tonight's game, testing out his finishing move on Isaac De Gois. He's penalised and on report.
11 min: TRY
Determined run from Bukuya there, carrying several defenders to score the opening points of the contest. Carney is successful with his first conversion tonight.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 6-0
12 min: The rain seems to bring the best out the Sharks. Todd Carney kicks early in the count and finds Brett Stewart out of position as the chasing pack drives him back in goal. Drop out.
13 min: Ben Pomeroy leaps high for the kick but spills it.
15 min: Sharks get another penalty but they can't convert this possession, Manly will work it away.
18 min: Seems Tony Williams has taken some angry pills tonight, attacking the head again. Manly then concede a penalty for offside.
Cronulla could have their second try, checking if Gallen threw the ball backwards.
21 min: TRY
The penalty has reaped benefits again for the Sharks. Gallen keeps it alive in the tackle then De Gois offloads to Nathan Gardener who has his first try of 2012. Carney from close range, converts.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 12-0
27 min: Anthony Watmough with a drop ball in the wrong part of the field. Another attacking scrum to Cronulla, can they cross the line again.
28 min: Sharks try something fancy in the wet, it's not needed and it's knocked on. Scrum Manly and the pressure relieved for now.
29 min: Tony Williams uses his aggression for something good, breaking through and offloading to Oldfield who goes down the sideline, trying to offload to B. Stewart but it's dropped.
31 min: Massive bomb from Robson traps Brett Stewart in goal again, drop out.
Cronulla's third try.. maybe, once again we're going up to the video referee.
32 min: TRY
TRY! Once again, keeping the ball alive has brought Manly unstuck. The Sharks keep it alive for Pomeroy to score in the corner and increase the ambush. From out wide, Carney misses.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 16-0
38 min: Cronulla are just steamrolling downfield and have forced another drop out. Can they score again before oranges?
39 min: Nope, Manly survive and want halftime to come quickly.
40 min: FIELD GOAL
Just to hammer home their dominance from the first half, Todd Carney kicks a field goal.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 17-0
41 min: Both teams have made their way back out onto a soggy Shark Park. Cronulla kick us off for the second half.
42 min: Same old song and dance for Manly, another drop ball to open this half, this time from Kieran Foran.
42 min: Williams drops it and is lucky to be rewarded with a penalty for being taken out.
43 min: It's been a horror night for Tony Williams, Manly get a penalty and he drops it cold.
46 min: Sharks get too eager in pouring on the pressure and Wade Graham spills it off a tough pass from Carney.
50 min: Manly show some enterprise, keeping it alive after a break from Tony Williams but his namesake David Williams is held by Colin Best and driven over the sideline.
52 min: Finally the Sea Eagles have found their groove but they have been met by some determined defense by Cronulla.
63 min: TRY
Michael Oldfield has his first try for the season and might have kick started something. Lyon misses
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 17-8
75 min: TRY
Brett Stewart produces something spectacular and Manly are in this! Lyon converts.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 17-10
78 min: TRY
Manly throwing the football like a hot potato and it works, with Oldfield getting his double. Lyon misses a vital kick again.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 17-14
78 min: They had all the momentum but a knock on from Lussick seems to have extinguished the Manly fire.
79 min: Oh no! Knock on from Paul Gallen, Manly have one final chance!
80 min: Luckily though, Manly knock it on and it's OVER! Cronulla have their first win of 2012 and it's over the defending premiers.