NRL 2019: Manly Sea Eagles into semi-finals after sinking Cronulla Sharks

The Manly Sea Eagles have defied the odds to stay alive in the NRL playoffs and end the Cronulla Sharks' season with a 28-16 victory at Lottoland.

With almost a third of their top-30 roster unavailable, the Sea Eagles blitzed Cronulla to go 18-0 up early and barely let them back into the match.

Without the likes of Tom Trbojevic, Martin Taupau, Curtis Sironen and Joel Thompson, both Daly Cherry-Evans and Addin Fonua-Blake stood up to star in the win.

The match was the Sea Eagles' first in the finals since 2013 and books them a date with South Sydney in Friday's sudden-death semi-final at ANZ Stadium.

The loss meanwhile ended Paul Gallen's 348-game NRL career, with the retiring Cronulla captain spending 43 minutes of the game on the sideline.

Manly's win was even more remarkable when considering they laid their platform in the middle against a Sharks pack littered with representative stars.

Manly's three bench forwards - including debutant Haumole Olakau'atu - had played just 10 games between them this year before Saturday night.

Sean Keppie also got through 131 metres starting for the Sea Eagles, just a week after making his NRL debut off the bench against Parramatta.

Fonua-Blake was meanwhile immense in Taupau's absence, topping 182 metres.

He scored a crucial try in the 53rd minute to make it 24-10 just when momentum seemed to be going toward Cronulla, pushing his way through three defenders from 20 metres out.

He also pulled off a vital big hit on Braden Hamlin-Uele moments later, forcing an error from the Sharks prop.

Cherry-Evans was typically strong too.

After Apisai Koroisau got Manly's first try out of dummy-half following a quick Fonua-Blake play-the-ball, the Sea Eagles half laid on their next two four-pointers.

The first came as a result of a double-punch play, after he first put Jack Gosiewski through a hole and then laid on a bullet pass for Moses Suli to cross next play.

Cherry-Evans was in the action again in the 20th minute when he grubbered for a chasing Brad Parker before the bunker ruled he'd got the ball down with control to make it 18-0.

The Shark barely recovered from their slow start.

They missed 11 tackles in the first 15 minutes, while five-eighth Shaun Johnson had a poor first half that included no runs, an error and two kicks that went dead.

He recovered briefly with a big five minutes after half-time when he forced a line drop out and laid on a lofted ball for Aaron Gray to score in the next set.

Bronson Xerri also crossed for one before the break while Josh Morris grabbed one late.

But it was too few too far between for the Sharks, who promised so much in 2019 with their roster but struggled to find consistency on the park after early and mid-season injury woes.


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