Rugby league superstar Valentine Holmes is reportedly set to return to the NRL next season, after his unsuccessful bid to play in the NFL with the New York Jets.
A comfortable victory over the Cronulla Sharks on Saturday night has put the Manly Sea Eagles into a semi-final with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The 12-point victory continues a long-running hoodoo for the Sea Eagles, who have had the wood over the Sharks over the years, now winning a total of 34 matches out of 40 between the teams at home since the beginning of the battle of the beaches.
The victory for Manly also ends the career of Paul Gallen, who was strong one last time, but couldn’t inspire his beloved Cronulla to victory.
In truth, the Sea Eagles set the tempo for the evening during the first 20 minutes of the game as they got busy and put on a huge display.
At one point, it was Manly against the clock as they raced to an 18-nothing lead inside the first 20 minutes, with the Sharks struggling to respond to what could only be described as a good old fashioned ambush at Brookvale.
Without many of their top players, including Tom Trbojevic and Martin Taupau, it was Jake Trbojevic, Addin Fonua-Blake and Sean Keppie who stood up during the first 20 minutes for Manly as they handled some early Cronulla momentum, then ran on three tries in eight minutes through Apisai Koroisau, Moses Suli and Brad Parker.
The 18-0 lead wouldn’t last long as Bronson Xerri found the tryline, but in the face of some good defence, Cronulla were particularly wasteful for the rest of the first stanza.
Instead of being able to capitalise, they went into the sheds behind by 18 points to 4.
Following the break, the Sharks picked up where they left off, except, this time, Shaun Johnson was somehwere near his best. They scored an early try, but then made some silly errors an invited Manly back onto the front foot.
With the Manly forwards having the better of the game, Daly Cherry-Evans was able to take over the contest, and it was his kicking game and management of the Sea Eagles which proved the key difference in the end, while Manly only missing 14 tackles compared to the Sharks 39 also had a heavy role to play in the final outcome.
The Sea Eagles, who will have Martin Taupau back next week, now line-up for a Friday night blockbuster semi-final against the South Sydney Rabbitohs, who fell to the Sydney Roosters in last night’s first qualifying final.
Manly Sea Eagles 28
Cronulla Sharks 16