Rugby League

Jack Bird moves closer to securing Cronulla Sharks No.1 jersey in trial draw

Jack Bird moved a step closer to securing the Cronulla No.1 jersey but it was much travelled former NRL bad boy, Arana Taumata, who helped save the Sharks from a disappointing trial loss to a second string Manly team on Saturday night.

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While Cronulla were missing captain Paul Gallen, back-rower Wade Graham, hooker Michael Ennis and utility Ben Barba, the biggest names in the Sea Eagles were winger Jorge Taufua, props Brenton Lawrence and Darcy Lussick and second-rower Tom Symonds.

Yet it would have been new Manly coach Trent Barrett who came away most pleased after the 24-all draw, which appeared set to be a surprise win until Taumata put Valentine Holmes under the posts  five minutes before full-time and  James Maloney converted.

Jesse Sene-Lefao of the Sharks is tackled short of the tryline.
Jesse Sene-Lefao of the Sharks is tackled short of the tryline. Photo: Mark Kolbe

It was Holmes' first outing since being dropped from Cronulla's Nines team and suspended from Queensland selection for 12 months after breaking curfew in an Emerging Maroons camp two weeks ago and being arrested at a Brisbane taxi rank. Should Holmes be in any doubt about how a promising career can unravel off the field, he need only look at the man who threw him the pass as Taumata has the unfortunate record of having been axed by seven clubs in a disappointing career in which he has played just 14 NRL matches.

The 26-year-old is hoping a stint with Cronulla's feeder club, Newtown, will give him another chance to fulfil his potential and if he can stay on the straight and narrow Taumata could be a bonus pick up for the Sharks. Standing in his way are the likes of Barba, new halves recruits James Maloney, Chad Townsend and Bird, the 2015 NRL rookie of the year.  The trial was the first hit-out together for Maloney and Townsend, while Sharks coach Shane Flanagan gave Bird an opportunity to play fullback and was more than happy with his display.

"It is an interesting one but Jack played pretty well tonight," Flanagan said. "He saved a try there that some fullbacks can't, he is so physically strong and he supported there for the try so he showed some signs.

"He got our numbers right, he was really vocal at the back, especially defending our tryline and they are the things we are working really hard on with Jack." 

Jack Bird makes a break.
Jack Bird makes a break. Photo: Mark Kolbe

Each of the three made first half errors, with Townsend knocking off from the kick off, Maloney throwing an intercept pass for Sea Eagles winger Fabian Goodell to score in just the third minute of the match and Bird being beaten by his opposite number, Brayden Wiliame, as the visitors crossed for another try.

However, Townsend made amends to send forward Sam Tagatese over for Cronulla's first try just before quarter time and Maloney was involved in a try by Bird in the 35th minute after another strong run by Tagatese.

A try to Kurt Kara gave the Sharks an 18-10 lead at halftime but tries to trialist Daniel Vasik and winger Halauafu Lavaka put Manly ahead until Holmes crossed in the 75th minute and Maloney converted to put the home side ahead 24-20. Another Lavaka try just before half-time equalled the scores.

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