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Match Report - Round 15 2003

Manly too strong for Cronulla

Fast finishing Manly overcame the dramatic loss of point-scoring whiz Ben Walker to deal Cronulla's National Rugby League finals hopes a devastating blow with a 36-18 win over the Sharks at Brookvale Oval.

The Sea Eagles scored six tries to three and piled up the last 18 points to break an 18-18 stalemate.

Manly played out the last 19 minutes and added a final 12 points without five-eighth Walker, who was stretchered off in a neck brace.

Walker was taken to Royal North Shore hospital after being knocked unconscious for seven minutes following an accidental knee in the neck by Cronulla prop Chris Beattie.

"He's got a pretty sore neck, although he's got movement in his hands," Manly coach Peter Sharp said.

The result ensured Manly would stay within one win of the eight after this weekend, but the Sharks will remain at least four points outside the playoff zone.

Asked if Cronulla could still make the finals, a candid Sharks coach Chris Anderson said "Not playing like that. We will have to improve our football a fair bit."

In a mistake riddled encounter, Manly conceded fewer than 30 points for the first time in seven rounds and finished off more clinically than the bumbling Sharks which bombed two tries in the second half through lamentable handling.

Winger Matt Rieck knocked on over the line in the 52nd minute and utility Michael Sullivan marred an otherwise impressive performance in the 63rd minute by dropping the ball after crossing the Manly stripe.

"When you do that and you drop it, it knocks your arse into orbit," Anderson said.

Manly scored 16 unanswered points in the first half, but Anderson bemoaned Cronulla's defensive errors and failure to capitalise on its attacking opportunities after it led 18-16 following a Sullivan try in the 47th minute.

"We had them knackered when we got two points ahead, I thought we had them out for the count, but we let them back into the game," Anderson said.

Sharp conceded Manly's football wasn't pretty and felt the team needed more consistency in its game.

"If we can get that, maybe we can get a big scalp one day, if we can get a bit more consistent right across the 80 minutes," Sharp said.

Following its regular script for this season, Manly conceded first points for the ninth time in 13 games, but produced a storming second half display.

Cronulla, five-eighth Greg Bird, scored the game's opening try in the 10 minutes, but Manly retaliated with an unanswered 16 point surge which included tries to halfback Luke Dorn, skipper and lock Steve Menzies and winger John Hopoate.

Sullivan's converted try gave the Sharks the lead, but Walker tied the game with a penalty and converted a 59th minute try to Anthony Watmough before leaving the field.

Manly iced the win with a try to prop Jason King following what Anderson described as a "50-50" call by video referee Graeme West, and a 60 metre effort to winger Scott Donald.

AAP

MANLY 36
(Tries: Dorn, Menzies, Hopoate, Watmough, King, Donald. Goals: Walker 4/5, Williamson 2/2)

CRONULLA 18
(Tries: Bird, Sullivan, Emelio. Goals: Anderson 2/2)

Brookvale Oval
21 June 2003
Referee: T Mander.
Crowd: 7,921.

TEAM:

1 Brendon REEVES
2 Scott DONALD
3 Alby TORRENS
4 Ben MACDOUGALL
5 John HOPOATE
6 Ben WALKER
7 Luke DORN
8 Jason KING
9 Chad RANDALL
10 Aaron CANNINGS
11 Solomon HAUMONO
12 Luke WILLIAMSON
13 Steven MENZIES (C)

14 Danny LIMA
15 Anthony WATMOUGH
16 Sam HARRIS
17 Mark SHIPWAY