Sharks lack killer bite and top-four bid dies
SHATTERED Cronulla squandered a vital top-four spot yesterday, a failure which will severely damage the club’s chances of snapping a 48-year premiership drought.
And defeat came against their old beach foes, the Sea Eagles. The same Manly who beat Cronulla in the 1973 and 1978 grand finals.
Melbourne have secured fourth position, the Sharks finishing sixth. It was a loss that may well haunt Cronulla.
With little to play for, Manly held out Cronulla 14-12 in a gripping match at Remondis Stadium.
“It’s must-win now and we seem to play our best footy when it’s must-win,” Sharks skipper Paul Gallen said. “It’s on next week.
“We let ourselves down, we had enough opportunities to win but we didn’t get it done.”
Cronulla crossed the tryline five times, but had efforts disallowed. Each time tries were denied, you got the feeling this just wasn’t going to be Cronulla’s day.
The Sharks had 59 per cent of the possession, Manly making 105 more tackles.
“Manly aren’t a rubbish team – they are only two points out of the eight,” said Sharks coach Shane Flanagan.
“We weren’t on. We dropped the ball a couple of times. We were over the tryline three or four times, just get the ball down and we were in the top four. But it just didn’t happen. We need to move on, I’m not happy about it.’’
Flanagan said Manly niggled his side.
“They came here with some tactics, particularly in the first half, to put us off our games,” Flanagan said.
“They were pushing and shoving and trying to get us off our game. I would have done the same thing.
“It did work, we retaliated a couple of times.”
Manly did well to lead 10-8 at halftime. The Sharks had three tries disallowed in the first half, although the decsions were correct each time.
One no-try came when Manly fullback Brett Stewart brilliantly held up Sharks winger Sosaia Feki, who was over the tryline and trying to ground the ball.
Manly had no field position in the opening 25 minutes. At one stage midway through the first half, Cronulla enjoyed 76 per cent of possession.
Cronulla hope to have suspended forward Andrew Fifita back for Sunday’s semi-final. He also sustained a calf muscle injury last Thursday.