Saturday night saw Manly travel down to Wollongong to take on the St George- Illawarra Dragons in what turned out to be a scrappy affair.
Both teams were even on form going into the match and were each welcoming back key players to their starting 17.
The game started poorly for the Sea Eagles as they gave away a penalty on their first tackle. With this the Dragons built early pressure forcing a repeat set, which resulted in them taking the lead when they were awarded a penalty after Manly were holding down the player for to long.
Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop made no mistake from 20 metres out and the red V took the lead.
The Dragons showed a lot of energy in and around the ruck and it was working Manly over as they gave away another cheap penalty. This time the Dragons made the Sea Eagles pay and returning fullback Josh Dugan found his winger Jason Nightingale who swivelled before planting the ball down in the corner.
Manly managed to get the football back after some solid defence and back-to-back penalties. However the men from the Norghern Beaches were unable to produce any pressure and as the Dragons quelled the danger when they pushed replacement centre Brayden Wiliame in to touch.
The game slowly moved into end to end footy with both sides going close. First the Dragons failed to score when young centre Euan Aitken dropped the ball when he tried to muscle his way over the line.
Manly then got themselves into Dragons territoy after halfback Daly Cherry-Evans produced some great football. He himself was the first Sea Eagle to be denied when he darted for the line, before Peta hiku was held up in some good defence an his attempted offload was gobbled up by Aitken.
Manly then allowed the Dragons good field position again when a high shot on, Trent Merrin found Dunamis Lui on report.
Manly were then forced to repel the danger again when a Tyson Frizell charged towards the line. The second rower was stopped in his tracks, but was awarded a penalty after receiving a shove in the play the ball and Widdop decided to take the two, extending the red V’s lead to ten.
The game then turned into a scrappy affair with a number ball fumbles and at halftime the score was 10-0.
Manly started the second half with a renewed vigour and it was summed up when Jake Trbojevic planted winger Nightingale into the ground.
Both teams continued to slug it out with either side being able to make a breakthrough and in the end it took a mistake to get Manly back in to the game. Dragon’s forward Jack De Bellin lost the ball in his own half and Manly made the Dragons pay when Kieran Foran’s grubber kick was latched on to by fill in centre Brayden Wiliame for his first try in Manly colours.
The Dragons then looked to apply a blow of their own and their razzle dazzle football had the Sea Eagles at sixes and sevens, but they were unable to apply the finishing touch.
With the clock counting down Manly needed to surge up the field as quick as possible and Cherry-Evans came up with the perfect response with a brilliant 40-20. But the Dragons regrouped well and propelled the danger forcing Manly out again.
The game then saw injury to Manly second rower Feleti Mateo who went off the field with a suspected ankle injury.
The Dragons continued to have great fortune from dummy-half and they forced a penalty out of the Sea Eagles close to the goal posts. With game delicately poised, Widdop smartly took the two and stretched the Dragons lead to 8 points.
Manly tried all of the tricks of the trade but weren’t able to get over the line, and when they eventually did, Wiliame was denied his second try of the night. Kieran Foran’s pass was slightly touched by Wiliame on the way through to Cheyse Blair who sped down the wing before feeding his centre the ball to score. But the video ref deemed his touch forward and denied Manly the four-pointer.
The Dragons then went close themselves only to be denied by a forward pass.
Manly gave one last final push but couldn’t get themselves over the line.
The game ended 12-4 to the Dragons in a dower affair stretching Manly’s bad run at Wollongong to three games.