Cronulla got off to a winning start at their new home ground in enemy territory with a solid 28-16 trial victory against Manly on Sunday evening.
The Sharks ran in five tries to three in a scrappy affair at Netstrata Jubilee Oval in Kogarah, the new hosts having taken a four-point lead into half-time when both sides fielded their strongest squads.
Shaun Johnson (virus) and Ronaldo Mulitalo (knee) were late scratchings for Cronulla, while Manly winger Jorge Taufua joined high-profile teammates Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic in being rested for round one.
Sea Eagles recruit Danny Levi bagged a try on club debut in a decent stint of just over half-an-hour, save for a missed tackle that led to a Cronulla four-pointer.
Meanwhile, uncapped Sharks prop Toby Rudolf made an almost irresistible case for round one selection, scoring a try and bending the line with most carries after coming off the bench.
Match: Sharks v Sea Eagles
Round 3 -
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
Teammate Jack Williams started at lock and did his chances of keeping the No.13 no harm with a typically robust performance.
It was Williams who helped break a 17-minute deadlock when he bulldozed past Levi and linked with the supporting Connor Tracey, who scored under the posts to put hosts in front.
Cronulla then enjoyed a wave of ball in Sea Eagles territory, with bench props Rudolf and Braden Hamlin-Uele adding spark after the quarter-time drinks break.
Andrew Fifita and Aaron Woods didn't return after punching out solid 20-minute stints.
The pressure didn’t turn into more Sharks points, however, and Manly levelled the scores in the 32nd minute when Levi capped his first stint on the field with a burrowing dummy-half effort.
But the Sharks had the final say of the half as the hooter rang out in the background. Halfback Chad Townsend's cross-field kick found a flying Sione Katoa, with veteran centre Josh Morris wrapping behind the winger to accept a smart pass and touch down in the left corner.
The Sea Eagles replaced all of their big guns for the second stanza, while Cronulla gave the likes of Morris, Townsend and some fringe players a little longer to blow out the cobwebs.
Morris had a stint at fullback in the last term, a position he could play in round one if Matt Moylan isn’t cleared to play.
Rudolf continued his mission to secure an NRL debut in a fortnight by crashing over for a try from a lovely Braydon Trindall pass to start proceedings in the second half.
The Sea Eagles returned fire through winger Abbas Miski, but Cronulla wrested back control when promising young front-rower Franklin Pele bullocked his way into the in-goal to extend the Sharks' lead.
Haumole Olakau'atu's try with 12 minutes to go kept Manly within striking distance but the Sharks closed the match out with Tracey collecting a double.
The playmaker, who could start the season as a bench utility, scooped up a brilliant inside kick from a runaway Vito Tevaga to ice the cake.
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