Even we had our doubts about Ricky Stuarts men in 2008, but after tonights gutsy win – the Sharks have proved their defence based brand of football will be a force this year, after their raid at Brookvale proved successful; ending at 16-10 over the highly fancied Manly Sea-Eagles.
In a spiteful game that will come under the watchful eye of the match review committee, the Sharks lost Ben Ross early after heavy head collision with new Sea Eagle Josh Perry. Ross old cold for several minutes and rushed to hospital for tests immediately.
With Manly having the better of the possession early on and enjoying several penalties; they could only muster a lone try to Anthony Watmough and struggled for attacking spark for a lot of the game. While the Sharks deserve credit for frustrating the life out of the Sea Eagles, there is no question that they missed Michael Monaghan tonight. So often when they needed something creative to get them points, they looked flat and devoid of ideas.
Fortunately for Manly, things could have been worse had the referee not disallowed a try to Brett Kearney that could have gone either way. In a brisk movement the Sharks David Simmons found a flying Kearney and setup what initially looked to be an impressive try.
The Sharks quickly came again, using their possession smartly and Bryson Goodwin getting over the line and Luke Covell adding the extras for n 8-6 lead at halftime. The age-less Luke Covell looking busy for a lot of the match and proving his value as he not only continued to slot 2 pointers but went centre field and regularly aided a tiring forward pack.
As Manly struggled for creativity, halfback Matt Orford was off target with the boot – relieving pressure on the visiting Sharks at several key moments and allowing them to build in confidence and belief as the game wore on.
Ricky Stuart coached sides are always noted defenders and while the Sharks continue to look good in this department, Stuart has obviously pushed for the team to employ more second phase play to help solve their scoring problems. The Sharks pushed passes like no tomorrow in the hope of sparking some linebreaks and the return of Brett Kearney to their ranks helped their cause no-end, taking the pressure of Kimmorley and proving a handful all over the park.
The other aspect where the Sharks impressed was from their set plays. Another of Ricky’s handiwork, Cronulla employed some nice pieces that looked slick and showed they will be a force in the 2008 NRL season. Everything was tied together nicely with a precise Brett Kimmorley kicking game, getting good metres and finding open space on the majority of kicks.
Manly improved in patches, but as they failed to crack the Sharks frustration grew and resulted in a stream of penalties that probably broke the home sides back. High shots and lazy marker play hurting the Eagles, who really needed someone to stand-up and take charge in this match. New buys Josh Perry and David Vaealiki both performed well without being outstanding and usual broken play specialist Steve Bell was kept very quiet as Cronulla watched him heavily.
Manly’s last throw of the dice came late, when flanker Michael Bani went into the corner to score off some ad-lib play that saw the ball go through several hands and give them a chance of stealing an unlikely victory.
It wasn’t to be, the Sharks nervously hanging on in the end to record a historic upset win – only the 3rd time in 20 years the Shire men have managed to come away from Brookvale Oval with a win. In contrast to that statistic however, coach Ricky Stuart hasn’t lost an opening round NRL game since he started coaching with the Roosters several years ago – a stat that remains in tact tonight after his underrated troops prove they have something to show in 2008.
Sharks v Manly Match Review Video Round 1, 2008 NRL