Eric Grothe Jnr showed he is set to make a successful return to rugby league for Cronulla after a strong first-up performance in the Sharks 24-12 NRL trial win over Manly on Friday night.
After three seasons out of the NRL, a fit slimline looking Grothe scored with his second touch of the night as he steamed onto a Nathan Stapleton pass and beat three defenders to crash over in the 49th minute.
Both sides started with second-string line-ups in the first half before switching to their full-strength teams after the break at which time Cronulla led 8-4 at Shark Park.
Grothe was surrounded by teammates after scoring the try including Todd Carney who ran 30m to high-five the former NSW State of Origin winger.
The 33-year-old ran with purpose an intent on a number of occasions before he was replaced after 30 minutes.
"It was good to get out there again and get that first run out of the way," Grothe said.
"The fans and all the players have been great.
"It's been a good pre-season and I'm looking forward to the year ahead.
"There is a lot of competition for spots in the team."
In attack Manly showed the spark that took them to last year's grand final and Jamie Lyon and Brett Stewart illustrated their learned combination in the 55th minute when Lyon dashed over after the NSW fullback ran a shortside play from 20m out.
Recruit Cheyse Blair then scored off a Kieran Foran kick three minutes later for a 12-all scoreline.
With Steve Matai sidelined with a foot injury, Manly's defence was found wanting when Siosaia Vave barged over out wide in the 62nd minute and Ricky Leutele danced over in the 72nd minute for the Sharks to lead 20-12.
Valentine Holmes scored out wide with two minutes to go for a 24-12 scoreline.
Todd Carney looked crisp in his return from a leg injury for 20 minutes.
While Bryce Gibbs was workmanlike in his first match since deciding against retirement.
In warm but not uncomfortable playing conditions before a crowd of around 4,000, there was some intensity missed from the early exchanges between the two sets of largely fringe firstgraders.
Pivot Manaia Rudolph scored for Manly and Fa'Amanu Brown and Ricky Leutele for the homeside for the Sharks to lead 8-4 at the break.
Manly coach Geoff Toovey said it was a decent trial start for his side.
"It was a good first hit-out, I though there was a few blokes who fell off some tackles but you expect that in these games," he said.
"I don't think we have won a trial in 10 years so the scoreline doesn't worry me."
Cronulla interim coach Peter Sharp said he was impressed with the efforts of Grothe and Gibbs and his side's point-scoring threat in general.
"I thought our attack looked pretty good tonight," he said.
"It was good for the boys to get a game under their belt.
"Our defence probably wasn't what it should be but we can work on that."