Manly dent Shark's premiership aspirations

Cronulla's NRL premiership hopes have taken a blow with a 14-12 loss to Manly at Remondis Stadium. (AAP)

Cronulla's NRL premiership hopes have taken a blow with a 14-12 loss to Manly at Remondis Stadium on Sunday.

Cronulla may have to leave the porch light on for Harold Holt for one more year, with their NRL premiership hopes suffering a body blow in the form of a 14-12 loss to Manly.

The Sharks blew a golden opportunity to grab fourth spot and two bites of the cherry on Sunday as they were out-niggled and repeatedly failed to capitalise.

A runaway Tom Trbojevic try in the 68th minute allowed the Sea Eagles to give departing coach Geoff Toovey a fitting farewell.

Shane Flanagan's side dominated everywhere but the scoreboard, enjoying a lion's share of possession and making the Sea Eagles commit to a mountain of defence.

The Sharks had 60 per cent of the ball, forced Manly to make 123 more tackles, were tackled 59 times inside Manly's 20 metre zone and got over the line five times but were denied again and again by the video referees.

They bombed several plum opportunities including one where Michael Gordon and Paul Gallen got in each other's way when all they had to do was fall on the ball after Trbojevic spilled a Jeff Robson bomb.

Flanagan said his team allowed themselves to be unsettled by Manly's niggling tactics and put off their game.

The sides had to be separated four times in the opening half with Sharks hooker Michael Ennis at the centre of the push-and-shove on each occasion.

"I thought they slowed the play the ball down. They were pushing and shoving and trying to get us off our game and it did work," Flanagan said.

"We retaliated there a couple of times and those tactics worked. There was a bit of banter out there, a bit of chat.

"They did it in the first half and they did it well and we reacted to it when we shouldn't have.

The Sharks dropped to sixth with the loss and will meet South Sydney in the first week of the finals next week in a sudden death play-off.

Their failure to grasp a top four spot put a serious dent in their 48-year wait to win their first premiership.

Master coach Jack Gibson's famous quote that "waiting for Cronulla to win the premiership is like leaving the porch light on for Harold Holt" will be ringing loudly in their ears this week.

The win was bittersweet for Toovey with his side finishing just one win shy of a finals berth after a tumultuous season.

"I'm a bit of a realist, it's the way it is," Toovey said.

"I'll be disappointed tomorrow because I see the teams that are in front of us and I know we're a better team than them.

"But they were better all through the year. So they deserve to be there and unfortunately we miss out."

Source AAP

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