Sea Eagles tear Sharks apart in absolute rout
Cronulla's season from hell got even worse on tonight, becoming the first team in NRL history to be held scoreless for three games in the same season.
Their 26-0 loss to Manly on Saturday night was also the third consecutive game the Sharks haven't managed to score a point, extending their point-scoring drought to 268 minutes of football.
The Sharks' last points came in the 52nd minute of their round 10 clash against the Wests Tigers when Michael Gordon converted his own try in the 22-20 loss at Remondis Stadium.
An already wounded Daly Cherry-Evans was bashed and bruised in Origin on Wednesday night but recovered in time to lead Manly back to the top of the ladder with the convincing win over Cronulla.
Cherry-Evans looked far more comfortable with a few more days to recover from a knee injury, setting up two tries bouncing back from the heartache of an Origin series defeat just three nights earlier. Manly fullback Brett Stewart was also back to his menacing best, while back-rower Tom Symonds bagged a double.
The Sea Eagles, who lost Anthony Watmough through suspension during the week, rejoined the Penrith Panthers in equal first position after their ninth win of the season in front of 13,383 fans at Remondis Stadium.
The Sharks have two wins from 13 games in a season plagued by injuries to their key players. But even with seven new faces in the Sharks line-up from the team that last took the field against St George Illawarra in Wollongong in round 13, including Paul Gallen, Todd Carney and Luke Lewis, the Sharks were never in the contest.
A missed tackle from Blake Ayshford saw Brett Stewart burst through the line to put Justin Horo in for the opening try for a 6-0 after four minutes.
The Sea Eagles doubled their lead in the 19th minute when Steve Matai brushed past Ayshford to slam it down for the second try down the Sharks' right edge. Cherry-Evans showed his fancy footwork to get around his opposite number and put skipper Jamie Lyon in for Manly's third try and a 16-0 lead after 32 minutes.
The Sharks looked to have scored on the stroke of half-time after a magical Ricky Leutele flick pass resulted in Sosaia Feki streaking down the sideline to dive over in the corner.
Despite the on-field referee awarding a try, the video referee overturned the decision deeming Feki had lost control of the ball before planting it down.
The decision angered Gallen, who blew up at referee saying: "when you rule try there has to be no doubt it wasn't a try to change it. That's one of the most embarrassing decisions".
The video referee also denied the Sharks a try early in the second half when he couldn't find enough evidence to overturn the on-field decision which deemed Stewart had held up Tinirau Arona over the line.
At the other end of the field the Sea Eagles didn't have such troubles, with Cherry-Evans putting Symonds through a yawning gap from close range to give the visitors a 22-0 advantage.
From the ensuing set a Jamie Lyon chip kick for Stewart was pin-point accurate, with Stewart drawing Nathan Gardner to gift Symonds his second try of the night and the season for a 26-0 lead after 58 minutes.
Just when it looked like the Sharks would finally break the drought, the touch judge controversially ruled a forward pass from Carney to Feki, who was denied his second try of the night.
Carney picked up a leg injury in a heavy tackle from Dunamis Lui in the final minutes but managed to hobble through to the end of the match.
Manly Sea Eagles 26 (T Symonds 2 J Horo J Lyon S Matai tries J Lyon 3 goals) Cronulla Sharks 0 at Remondis Stadium. Referee: Gavin Morris, Gavin Reynolds. Crowd: 13,383
Sydney Morning Herald