The Sea Eagles have failed to wrap up their first minor premiership since 1997, succumbing to a red-hot Cowboys outfit 30-16 in Townsville on Saturday night.
With the J.J.Giltinan shield hanging on the result, the Sea eagles were dealt another massive blow after fullback Brett Stewart withdrew with an ankle injury.
Already without key forwards Matt Ballin, Brenton Lawrence and Jamie Buhrer through injury, the Sea Eagles raced out of the gates to take an early lead through centre Steve Matai.
However, their celebrations would be cut short as the Cowboys ran in 18-unanswered points to take a four-point advantage into the break.
Cowboys outside backs Antonio Winterstein, Kyle Feldt and Kane Linnett all crossing for four pointers as they looked to extend their lead on the other side of the break.
Winger Feldt bagged his second just three minutes after half time to put a dent in Manly’s comeback hopes. Justin Horo managed to peg back the margin to 24-10 after running a clever line to score beside the posts.
But it was happening all too easy for the home side as Robert Lui snuck in between two Manly defenders to all but seal victory with barely 20 minutes remaining.
Stewart’s replacement Clinton Gutherson added to his impressive try-scoring strike rate in the NRL with a four-pointer in the final minute of play after Jorge Taufua broke down the left edge to send the flyer under the sticks.
“It wasn’t a good night for us,” five-eighth Foran said. “We came here with a lot to play for and to play like that was pretty disappointing.
“We have to fix our completion rate ahead of next week. Our kicking game was pretty poor as well, so we’ll need to fix that.”