Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans pushed his case for a Queensland State of Origin recall as he shot Manly into the NRL’s top four with a 35-18 flogging of the Cronulla Sharks on Sunday.
Cherry-Evans set up three tries and kicked a field goal in the win to continue his career-best form at Southern Cross Group Stadium in Sydney.
His only blemish came when he threw an intercept ball for Cronulla’s Luke Lewis late in the first half, who ran 80 metres to score and threaten a typical Sharks comeback.
But after the Sharks scored again through Sosaia Feki, Cherry-Evans stood up, slotting over a field goal on the halftime siren.
Cronulla also suffered a blow when hooker Jayden Brailey was rushed to hospital with a possible broken jaw midway through the second half.
Queensland Origin winger Valentine Holmes also appeared to battle a hip injury early, but regained his fitness later in the match.
Largely forgotten in the Maroons’ selection race to replace the injured Johnathan Thurston, Cherry-Evans’ performance must now surely put him in the race for at least a bench spot.
He targeted New South Wales five-eighth James Maloney in defence, regularly directing traffic at him as he missed five tackles.
It was evident when he put second-rower Curtis Sironen in to score in the second set of the match, after the Sharks five-eighth rushed out of the line.
He then repeated the dose with an inside flick ball for Sironen to score his second in the first half – however the second-rower left the field with a possible pectoral injury.
The halfback had his third assist in the second half with a spiralling two-man cut-out pass for winger Matthew Wright to score and put the match beyond doubt.
Centre Dylan Walker was also at his elusive best when he beat five men to score late, although he appeared to finish the game with an injured shoulder.
Meanwhile the Sharks looked well off the pace from the outset in his team’s biggest lost of the year as they dropped to fifth on the ladder.