Turbo’s mixed bag as Manly go MIA, then fire too late against Sharks

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“I don’t think he’s going as bad as everyone is saying,” Blues coach Brad Fittler said on radio before Tom Trbojevic trotted out for Manly on Sunday.

After 60 minutes in front of a small army of former players and the Brookvale faithful, Manly were going as bad as everyone was saying.

The sight of Sharks back-rower Briton Nikora burning past Trbojevic down the right flank said plenty.

And then, with a Cronulla fadeout you can set your watch to this year, Trbojevic and the Sea Eagles sprung to life.

With the Sharks leading 20-2 with just 18 minutes left and cruising, Trbojevic and Manly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans suddenly fired a home side that had spent the first hour playing like they were stuck in the mud.

It was Trbojevic’s injection into the line and pop pass that sparked Reuben Garrick’s 62nd minute try. Cherry-Evans’ dummying and stepping then piloted Lachlan Croker over with eight minutes to play.

A dejected Tom Trbojevic on Sunday.Credit: Getty

In reality, Manly shouldn’t have got as close as they did. A 14-2 half-time advantage with Nicho Hynes pulling the strings only surprised in that the lead wasn’t larger.

Cronulla were that clinical. Manly looked that disinterested. The very first attacking raid said as much.

From 10 metres out and carting up a simple crash ball, Royce Hunt ploughed right through Manly hitman Haumole Olakau’atu.

The young Sea Eagle’s drop-off in the tackle was alarming and matched the downturn in his form of a late. A penny for Fittler’s thoughts on the sideline.

Jesse Ramien and Nicho Hynes celebrate Ramien’s try against Manly.Credit: Getty

In reality, for much of the contest Trbojevic had few opportunities to put his stamp on it. He tried anything and everything, as he always does.

The Sea Eagles No.1 started the second half with two carries in the one set, finishing with 23 runs and 191 metres for the afternoon.

When Hynes took on the line soon after, trying to power through three defenders, Trbojevic was there to kick his attempted put-down away.

Trbojevic’s effort plays weren’t an issue. The explosive, like what’s needed when a back-rower gets on your outside, remain so. There still wasn’t a single tackle bust among all those carries.

Will Kennedy tries valiantly to stop Lachlan Croker scoring for the Sea Eagles.Credit: Getty

Fittler and Trbojevic have just one more game now for that change before the Blues name their Origin I side, but at least brother Jake is talking a big game about getting on the paddock against Canberra next week.

As for Hynes, his was an impressive day at the office as usual, but not comparable to Jarome Luai shooting the lights out for Penrith on Friday night.

Cronulla enjoyed a two-to-one share of possession and territory at one point during the first half, Hynes marshalling much of that dominance.

When Manly did find some respite, they couldn’t kick a penalty into touch. A minute later, the Sharks’ pet play — the slingshot performed with surgical precision — had Sione Katoa crossing out left.

A Garrick penalty goal right on half-time, from the sideline and 30 metres out, was the only time Manly looked like scoring.

When Nikora sped past Trbojevic and Jesse Ramien finished off the Sharks’ third try, the cue went in the rack.

The jury remains out on Cronulla’s true credentials as a result. Trbojevic’s Origin claims can probably be treated the same way.

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