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Cronulla Sharks beat Manly Sea Eagles 34-22 thanks to Siosifa Talakai first-half dominance

Siosifa Talakai scored two tries and set up three others in the first half. (Getty: Cameron Spencer)

Cronulla centre Siosifa Talakai has reaffirmed his status as one of the most damaging players in the NRL with an unstoppable performance as the Sharks beat Manly.

Cronulla rediscovered their form after last week's loss to Melbourne, with Talakai creating and benefiting from the team's excellence in a 34-22 win, although all the Sharks' brilliance was confined to the first half.

Talakai made his NRL debut back in 2016 with South Sydney but was out of the league after 2017, at one point working as a garbage man, before being given a train-and-trial opportunity in Cronulla before in 2020.

While his first two seasons with the Sharks were strong, in 2022 he is making a case for Dally M centre of the year and he looked the part on Thursday night.

The steamrolling outside back scored two tries and set up three others as the Sharks stormed to a 32-0 half-time lead, with all the points coming down Talakai's left side of the field.

The first points came just 90 seconds into the game, when a shift to the left put Talakai outside his opposite number, Morgan Harper, who was beaten again 15 minutes in when Matt Moylan gave Talakai early ball and he skipped past and through to the tryline.

He appeared set for his hat-trick in the 20th minute when he powered to the outside again, but Harper and wing partner Jason Saab reined him in, only for the Shark to pop a miraculous ball out the back to Ronaldo Mulitalo to score.

Another left-side shift saw Talakai set up Mulitalo on an overlap before the best of the lot, when Talakai stepped inside Harper on the halfway line, charged 40 metres untouched and kept his composure to grubber through for fullback Will Kennedy to score.

Talakai did not touch the ball in the lead-up to the last try in the final seconds of the half, but his presence no doubt put doubt in the mind of the defence and helped the second rower inside him, Teig Wilton, stroll over untouched off Nicho Hynes's short ball.

So complete was Talakai and Cronulla's dominance of their Manly counterparts that Des Hasler benched Harper in favour of young speedster Tolutau Koula at half-time.

It was not the only thing that changed during the break for Manly, with a completely unrecognisable re-energised side emerging from the sheds, starting the seemingly impossible comeback mission with Christian Tuipulotu storming over from close range in the fifth minute of the half.

Hulking forward Taniela Paseka did the same soon after, followed by hooker Lachlan Croker and Haumole Olakau'atu, with halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran playing roles as co-conductors.

But they could not get any closer than 10 points, with a late Sharks penalty goal and fatigue perhaps slowing their charge as Manly lost their entire bench.

Paseka and Dylan Walker left the game with nasty looking knee injuries, Andrew Davey landed awkwardly on his shoulder as he tried to score a late try, and Harper did not return.



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