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Manly beat Cronulla 24-18 in NRL semi

Anthony Watmough celebrates a try

Manly have earned a third crack at taking down South Sydney after a Daly Cherry-Evans masterclass and John Morris brain snap lifted the Sea Eagles to a 24-18 win over Cronulla in Friday night's NRL semi-final.
Manly beat Cronulla 24-18 in NRL semi
by AAP

By Steve Jancetic

SYDNEY, Sept 20 AAP - Manly have earned a third crack at taking down South Sydney after a Daly Cherry-Evans masterclass and John Morris brain snap lifted the Sea Eagles to a 24-18 win over Cronulla in Friday night's NRL semi-final.

Running on empty for much of the second half, the Sea Eagles held on to set up a preliminary final against the Rabbitohs next Friday - with the grand final awaiting the winner.


They never trailed with Cherry-Evans the star scoring one try and setting up two others with precise kicks - but it was the intervention of Sharks hooker Morris which proved just as crucial - with his actions denying what would have been a match-levelling try to skipper Paul Gallen with seven minutes remaining.

Gallen charged over from 10 metres out to set the Sharks contingent in the disappointing 23,837-strong crowd into raptures, only for pocket referee Ashley Klein to spot Morris taking out Matt Ballin at marker.

Gallen was in disbelief as Shayne Hayne sent the decision up to the video referee.

"Are you serious? I beat five blokes," Gallen said.

The Sharks came again but it was appropriate that Cherry-Evans ended up with the ball to stop Cronulla's final charge, the absence of the injured Todd Carney hurting the underdogs as they struggled with their last-play options.

Still they were in the game until the last second against the wilting Sea Eagles, who face a monumental task backing up against the Rabbitohs in seven days.

Cherry-Evans' kicks led to first-half tries for Anthony Watmough and Kieran Foran, sandwiched around a Michael Gordon four-pointer on a rare foray down the opposition end for the Sharks.

Jorge Taufua took the Sea Eagles out to a comfortable 18-6 lead just after the restart, but there was plenty of controversy over the put-down with the hulking winger appearing to lose the ball as he crashed through four defenders.

The video referee deemed there was insufficient evidence to take away the try, but the Sharks were not down for long, Andrew Fifita showing once again there was plenty of finesse to the wrecking ball approach as he athletically put down a Jeff Robson grubber just before the dead-ball line.

Cherry-Evans crossed for what would prove the match-clincher on the hour, with Jonathan Wright's solo effort five minutes later getting the Sharks close but not close enough.

Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey said it was obvious the qualifying final against Sydney Roosters had left his players drained.

"I thought that they hung in there, I didn't realise how much last week took out of them to be honest with you," Toovey said.

"After 20 minutes there was a lot of blokes out there that looked a bit tired but they did a job and I think Cronulla played some great football.

"They threw everything at us the last 15 minutes but we did really well to hang in there."

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan held his tongue but it was obvious he was not happy with the officiating, claiming the Watmough and Taufua tries should not have been awarded.

"It's not going to change the result so I'm not going to go off my head, I'd like to - Noycey (chief executive Steve Noyce) hasn't got $10,000 and neither do I," Flanagan said, referring to the NRL fine for criticising referees.

"A bit of luck, a few decisions go our way, we could be playing to go into a grand final and that's the thing that hurts, you don't get that opportunity."

Added Gallen: "I could sit here and talk conspiracy theories and give you something to write about for three days, (but) it's over, we were beaten.

"There's going to be human error, we had one thing go our way last week, we probably had three go against us tonight."


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