There was no mention of flying under the radar but Manly coach Des Hasler believes his team are “in the background, building quietly” after out-muscling Newcastle 26-18 at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
The Sea Eagles never really looked like losing after jumping to an 18-0 lead, and did not concede a point while in-form front-rower Addin Fonua-Blake was in the sin-bin for 10 of the last 12 minutes for a high tackle on Knights captain Mitchell Pearce.
It was Manly’s third straight win after dropping their first two against the Wests Tigers and Sydney Roosters, and allowed them to celebrate captain Daly Cherry-Evans’s 200th game in style, but Hasler was not getting too carried away.
"It's only round five. We've got a long way to go. We're still building," Hasler said.
"We're thereabouts. We're in amongst it.
"I just thought that given our start, and we were probably in a position to maybe win one of those games, that it’s just good to get a little bit of momentum, and to pick up three wins is important."
Match Highlights: Knights v Sea Eagles
Hasler said it was important to start well against a Newcastle team that were in better shape than their win-loss record and ladder position indicated.
"We knew we had to, because we knew they were going to start pretty quickly, so I’m pleased we got away to a great start and while we had that field position we were able to pile on some early points," he said.
Hasler believed Fonua-Blake's tackle on Pearce was careless, rather than an act of foul play, and that his sin-binning was sufficient punishment.
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More importantly, he was pleased the 12 remaining Sea Eagles kept their line intact.
"I thought it was good for their confidence as well. We’re just away in the background, just building quietly, and it was always [going to be] hard," he said.
"I said coming into this game, I’ve been very impressed with the Knights. I don’t think the way they’ve been playing justifies where they are on the competition table.
"They've been in contests right throughout, so we knew it was always going to be a very difficult game. They didn’t give up, they didn’t let their fans down, they bounced back and it was a pretty exciting game there towards the end."
Hasler was pleased Cherry-Evans played a pivotal role in his milestone game.
"It was a great celebration for him, and it's even more special when you have a win," he said.
"It's a great way to celebrate 200 games – 200 games at one club – and he's in as good a form as ever."
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