Holden Cup: Manly lose 32-26

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles suffered a 32-26 loss to St George-Illawarra Dragons in the Holden Cup at Cabramatta today.

The round six match, transferred from Lottoland to Blacktown then to New Era Stadium at Cabramatta due to field surfaces, was an enthralling contest at times with St George-Illawarra Dragons holding on to take the competition points.

A weight of possession and some simple, mistake free play saw the Dragons lead 20-0 after 31 minutes through tries to centres Zac Lomax and Reuben Garrick, and one to prop Josh Dowel.

The Sea Eagles were their own worst enemies in the first half through poor handling and some ill-discipline but when they did get the ball, managed to score two converted tries to go into half-time trailing 20-12.

A strong run by second-rower Haumole Olakau’atu saw him crash over out wide to score before eighth Tom Wright finished off a backline play to score near the posts. Winger Bilal Maarbani converted both tries.

The hope of a strong start by Manly in the second half was gone when the Sea Eagles committed the cardinal sin of allowing the ball to bounce in-goal from a bomb for the Dragons to score through winger Jason Gillard for a 26-12 lead.

The Sea Eagles then conceded another try a few minutes later when the Dragons found space down the left edge to score through Lomax. The centre converted his own try for a 32-12 lead after 47 minutes.

Manly should have scored in the 59th minute but a bad pass from centre Brad Parker saw the ball go behind Maarbani’s back and into touch with the winger unmarked.

Parker made up for his amends when he acted as decoy for prop Taniela Paseka to run through three defenders to score. Maarbani converted to leave Manly trailing 32-18 after 68 minutes.

The Sea Eagles got back to 32-22 through when the talented Olakau’atu crossed for his second try with nine minutes remaining.

Three minutes later, the Sea Eagles trailed 32-26 when Manase Fainu crossed to set up an exciting finish.

As the clock ticked down, Manly kept attacking the Dragons line but the defence stood firm in the end.

It was a vast improvement by the Sea Eagles following their heavy defeat the previous week against the Sydney Roosters but it was a performance too that certainly left the coaching staff and supporters frustrated as this team does have the talent and ammunition to make a big impact in the Holden Cup.

The Sea Eagles have now won two of their six matches this season – the two wins coming in the opening two rounds. The Dragons have won five of their six matces.

Manly play Melbourne Storm (four wins from six) at Lottoland next Saturday, April 15.

Manly Holden Cup team

1 Luke Polselli

2 Bilal Maarbani

3 Brad Parker

18 Alfred Smalley

20 Marvin Curry

6 Tom Wright

7 Kurtis Preece

8 Jaiden Tarrant

9 Cade Cust (c)

10 Taniela Paseka

11 Haumole Olakau’atu

12 Josh Martin

13 Jesse Martin

Interchange

15 Elia Faatui

16 John Tuivati

21 Manase Fainu

22 Kane McQuiggin