THEIR bitter rivalry was born out of the code's most brutal grand final 37 years ago and last night beachboy combatants Cronulla and Manly wound back the clock as the fists flew again in the Sea Eagles' 18-4 trial match win.
On the charge ... Jamie Lyon. Source: The Daily Telegraph
MANLY 18, CRONULLA 4
In a match marred by a sickening right knee injury to rookie Sharks winger Stewart Mills, it was the torrential rain that was the talking point as both Manly coach Des Hasler and Cronulla mentor Ricky Stuart bemoaned the fact the weather prevented both sides from putting into practice the off-season work.
Stuart was also shattered over the possible season-ending injury to 19-year-old Engadine junior Mills, who fell awkwardly as he surged towards the line in the 15th minute.
Although the rain doused any hopes of a free-flowing game, there was no dampening the passions as the players came to blows twice in five minutes in the second half, with Manly prop Jason King and his Sharks opposite number Kade Snowden sin-binned.
"I've never been binned in a trial," King said. "It was just letting off a bit of steam. He hit me high and I reacted. It's been a long off-season."
Manly fullback Brett Stewart found himself the unwitting kerosene in the opening exchange when players surged in after the 24-year-old was smashed into the goalposts as he defused a Trent Barrett bomb.
Minutes later King and Snowden were binned when at least six players traded blows in a scuffle that left King bleeding heavily from the mouth.
In a match where both sides started the first half with fringe players, it was Manly who best came to grips with the conditions as torrential rain conspired in the opening 20 minutes to deliver a flood of handling errors.
The Sea Eagles opened the scoring in the 33rd minutes when rookie half Daly Cherry-Evans stepped his way past three defenders to score.
Two more converted tries in five minutes to winger Tony Williams and Dragons recruit Dean Whare pushed Des Hasler's men to 18-0.
It was then the fireworks started. Nothing to match the 1973 bloodbath, but it left both coaches smiling.
"It relieves a bit of tension from the off-season," Stuart said of the fights. "Playing at this level, they're working hard and that's probably why you saw a lot of dropped ball."
Far from concerned with the result in which the home side only crossed for a late consolation try to Ben Pomeroy, Stuart was left cursing the shocking luck of young Mills.
MANLY 18 (D Cherry-Evans, T Williams, D Whare tries; J Lyon 2, D Cherry-Evans goals) CRONULLA 4 (B Pomeroy try).