Cronulla punish rudderless Manly in NRL

Pamela Whaley
Cronulla have beaten an injury-hit Manly 40-22, scoring seven tries in their NRL match in Gosford

Cronulla have overturned one of the biggest hoodoos in the NRL, scoring a thumping 40-22 win over Manly in Gosford.

It was just the third time in 12 years the Sharks tasted victory over their bogey team but looked a class above in miserable conditions on Sunday afternoon at Central Coast Stadium.

And while the Sea Eagles were without stars Dylan Walker and Tom Trbojevic, their defence didn't shape up against a Sharks spine which had found its groove.

Shaun Johnson, Matt Moylan and Chad Townsend all set up tries in the first half to lead 18-6 at the break and, between them, had a hand in all seven of the Sharks' four-pointers.

Townsend had the best of them in the 54th minute with a miraculous catch and pass while falling, setting flying winger Sione Katoa up for his second try of the match.

Katoa's put-down while in the air was inch-perfect, demonstrating the skills which had landed him eight tries from seven games this season.

"He never ceases to amaze me, Si," said Sharks coach John Morris.

"He's got beautiful hands, he picked that up off his bootlaces last week and in a greasy night tonight to be able to dive for the corner and get the grip on the ball like that is a real skill that he's got.

"He's a natural finisher and I'm not sure there's many better than him in terms of finishing tries."

And while Townsend set up three tries, Johnson extended his lead for most try-assists in the NRL this season to 10 with two for the night.

The Sea Eagles had won 17 of their past 19 games against Cronulla dating back to 2008 for the equal-best winning record of any NRL team against any opponent.

However, nothing went right for Des Hasler's side who struggled to find potency in attack without their star fullback scoring or setting up tries.

Before Sunday, Trbojevic had set up or scored 11 of Manly's 16 tries this season. And, with him sidelined with a hamstring injury for another two months, the Sea Eagles will need to look elsewhere for their points.

Addin Fonua-Blake, Jorge Taufua and Tevita Funa were the lone scorers on Sunday, the former scoring through lax defence twice in the second half.

"I'm really disappointed to tell you the truth," said Hasler.

"We scored (22) points, that's enough to win a game of footy, really.

"They were better at the ruck than us and defensively we missed far too many tackles and we need to fix that quick smart."

The Sharks opened the game in the 14th minute when Braden Hamlin-Uele burst onto a short ball from Townsend close to the line.

Manly hit back shortly after when stand-in five-eighth Lachlan Croker set up Taufua on the wing, but the energy went out of the Sea Eagles soon afterwards.

The win was the third of 2020 for the Sharks and their first back-to-back, raising hope their season can recover from early challenges.

They will next play Gold Coast in Queensland, while Manly will host Newcastle next Sunday.