The Sharks beat the Sea Eagles 34-22 thanks to a first-half masterclass from Siosifa Talakai, but Craig Fitzgibbon won’t be happy after losing the second half 22-2.
Cronulla center Siosifa Talakai blasted Manly from the park and played himself into the race at Origin with a powerful first-half display that proved the difference as the Sharks held off the finished Sea Eagles quickly 34-22 at PointsBet Stadium.
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The Sharks’ only points in the second half came from a Nicho Hynes penalty goal, but it was enough to see the hosts win, thanks in large part to Talakai.
Talakai, a former bulldozing backrower, stole the show with a stunning first-half performance, racking up 193 yards, two tries, two assists and nine tackle saves to help the Sharks part 32-0.
The Sharks flew out of the gates, scoring the first try of the game with their first use of the ball after Sea Eagles skipper Daly Cherry-Evans fed off the catch and was tackled in goal.
Talakai was the first to score. It was the start of a massive first half that propelled the No. 4 into Origin’s consideration.
The Sea Eagles, who were without Tom Trbojevic and faced a steep PointsBet Stadium to the south, conceded 32 points in the opening 40 minutes, mostly thanks to Talakai.
Here are the main takeaways from the game.
TALAKAI TORCHES TRANSFER IN THE ORIGINAL AUDITION
Sharks center Siosifa Talakai produced one of the greatest first-half performances in NRL history to leave Manly stunned at 32-0 and the commentators speechless.
Talakai continued his brilliant form with 241 rushing yards, 11 tackle busts, three offloads, three line breaks, one assist, two assists and two tries and most of that came in the first half alone.
Cooper Cronk believes Talakai deserved Dally M’s six points for the game, such was his dominance in the first half.
“Stop the fight,” Cronk said at halftime
“It was half football but this guy Talakai dominated and was the best player on the pitch.
“Give him 3, 2 and 1 in the Dally M votes.
“11 points, 200 yards, nine jump tackles and I haven’t even mentioned the two tries and three assists yet.
“Harper, Cherry-Evans and Saab are all kinds because of what Siosifa Talakai does.”
Greg Alexander wasn’t surprised by Talakai given what he’s produced in recent weeks for the Sharks since replacing the injured Connor Tracey.
“Coming into tonight’s game, he had more tackle drops than any other player in the competition,” Alexander said.
‘The job he does for the Sharks in getting them out of trouble. He’s a steam engine when he has the ball.
Cronk felt that Talakai was so dominant early on that he could have scored four tries before selflessly involving his teammates.
“It’s a powerful dominating performance,” Cronk said.
“The Sharks had the wind in their sails. It was almost as if they were running down the hill.
“Talakai scored the first two and it was almost like he said I was causing too much damage here.
“He started offloading the ball on Mulitalo and he scores a pair.
“Olakau’atu went to sin bin and you thought they were going to keep coming here, but Talakai doesn’t get the ball back until one of the last plays and he causes more damage.”
Talakai’s bright half had Michael Ennis calling him to be rushed to the Blues Origin team.
“Greg Alexander has left the building and is taking suit sizes for the Blues,” Ennis said.
“I don’t think anyone coming into the season would have had Talakai on their radar to play Origin footy, but the form he’s in right now and Brad Fittler in the best seat in the house tonight. Sitting there watching the damage Talakai is doing.
“How useful would he be on the bench for NSW.”
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DCE’S HOT RUN OF FORM GOES TO HELL AND BACK
Daly Cherry-Evans’ hot form let him down in the first half before nearly leading Manly to an epic comeback for the ages in the second half.
Cherry-Evans was guilty of a horror defense with the rest of Manly’s left edge, missing four tackles as Talakai went wild.
Cherry-Evans dropped the kickoff that set the tone for the first half as Talakai took them to the cleaners.
“Not a highlight for Manly with Cherry-Evans giving up the kickoff,” Alexander said.
“It wasn’t until three games later that Talakai scored his first try in the second minute of play.
“He just threw away the dummy. They looked short left and right.
“They opened them several times down the right and could lead by more than 32-0 at halftime.
“It’s eight line breaks to one. They wipe them away. Manly just isn’t in the game.
“Cherry-Evans kicked off badly and Manly just didn’t recover.”
Michael Ennis praised the Sharks’ tactics for taking advantage of Manly’s poor defensive strategy.
“The problem for Manly and he was exposed early on by Hynes, Moylan and Kennedy was that they saw how compressed Manly was defensively,” Ennis said.
“Sharks’ execution of offense targeting manly edges defensively who just got caught too easily.”
To Cherry-Evans’ credit, he led a fiery second-half fightback to finish with 95 yards running, three tackle busts, two offloads, three line-break assists and two assists, but it was a game that he would like to forget in a hurry. .
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MANLY CENTER FACING THE AXIS AFTER BEING HANGED
Morgan Harper has returned from Covid protocols against the Sharks but wished he had another week off after being hung up at halftime.
Honestly, there aren’t too many people in the game who could have stopped Talakai in that kind of mood, but he was absolutely blown away by the park.
Harper was only 21 yards rushing on three-pointers and missed more tackles (six) than he made (five).
Greg Alexander felt for Harper at halftime after Talakai went wild.
“I feel for Morgan Harper,” Alexander said.
“He had his work cut out in the first 40 minutes.
“He is against a man who is in great shape.
“How many tackles have they missed on that right side between Cherry-Evans, Morgan Harper and Jason Saab and Olakau’atu?”
“They missed 23 tackles in the first half,” Cronk replied.
“Harper missed six and only made it five.
“I dare say Des Hasler will give them absolute cooking.
“You have to go for the legs.
“If you get high on Talakai, he’ll just throw you.”
Alexander thinks Hasler would be disappointed that Manly isn’t more ready to fight against one of the top teams in the competition.
“Talakai was brilliant,” Alexander said.
” But that is not enough. Des will not be satisfied with his right side defense.
“You have to go in and dig.
“He’s not an easy man to attack, but they can do a lot better than what they’ve been doing.
“It’s 32-0. Manly shouldn’t be down 32-0 at half-time if they see themselves as a team that can compete with the big guys.
The Cronulla Sharks host the Manly Sea Eagles in a blockbuster showdown at PointsBet Stadium.
Regular Sharks skipper Dale Finucane is out for a few weeks with concussion issues, with Craig Fitzgibbon believing Nicho Hynes was the logical replacement as captain, while Cameron McInnes will fill the No.13 role.
Aiden Tolman enters the squad for Braden Hamlin Uele who has suffered a pectoral injury, with Royce Hunt joining the prop rotation and starting with Tolman moving to the bench.
The Sharks welcome second British rower Nikora from Covid protocols in a timely boost to their pack.
For the Sea Eagles, Morgan Harper returns from Covid protocols at center, with Tolutau Koula moved to the bench, but he could be a late inclusion somewhere in the 17.
Taniela Paseka goes to the bench with Karl Lawton starting in the back row and Andrew Davey moving to prop.
Prop Sean Keppie is out with a concussion with Ethan Bullemor and Kurt De Luis joining the bench.
The No. 7 battle should be worth the price of admission alone with Daly Cherry-Evans and Hynes in top form to start the season.
Both teams will be desperate to win as they aim to carve out a place in the all-important top four.
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