Manly Warringah Sea Eagles suffered a season ending 34-26 loss to South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium tonight in the Telstra Premiership Semi-Final.
The Sea Eagles fought gallantly to the end and can be extremely proud to make it through to the second week of the finals after finishing the regular season in sixth place under Coach Des Hasler.
Manly went into the finals without injured stars Tom Trbojevic, Joel Thompson and Curtis Sironen with many experts not giving the Sea Eagles a chance of progressing far.
The Sea Eagles welcomed the return of prop Martin Taupau for the semi-final after missing last week's win over Cronulla Sharks in the elimination final at Lottoland.
Souths failed to open the scoring in the ninth minute when Adam Reynolds missed from 15 metres out next to the posts after Manly were caught offside.
Two minutes later, the Rabbitohs opened the scoring through a try to winger Alex Johnston when he showed his pace down the left flank to score after catching Manly short on numbers. Reynolds failed to convert the try for a 4-0 lead after 11 minutes.
The Rabbitohs went to an 8-0 lead in the 15th minute when five-eighth Cody Walker ran into a hole to score next to the posts. Reynolds converted the try for a 10-0 lead.
Manly got on the board in the 17th minute when centre Brad Parker brushed off Reynolds to score in the left corner off a short pass from five-eighth Dylan Walker. Winger Reuben Garrick failed to convert the try for a 10-4 scoreline.
Sea Eagles half-back and captain Daly Cherry-Evans was placed on report for an alleged crusher tackle on hooker Damien Cook. Reynolds converted a penalty goal from 25 metres out for a 12-4 lead to Souths after 20 minutes.
Manly hit back when Dylan Walker delivered a short pass for second-rower Corey Waddell (below) to step inside a defender to score his first try of the season next to the posts. Garrick converted to leave the Sea Eagles trailing 12-10 after 24 minutes.
Souths then lost Cody Walker to the sin-bin for 10 minutes for running in and starting a melee after Many second-rower Jack Gosiewski pushed down on a Souths defender’s face in-goal. Souths got the penalty but lost Walker to the bin.
Parker was then denied a try in the left corner after being held up in-goal in the 31st minute before Manly were forced to dig deep on their line after Souths raced upfield in the next set of six.
The Sea Eagles hit the front for the first time when centre Moses Suli used his raw power to push off John Sutton after slipping before finding space to send Garrick down the right flank before he passed inside for Cherry-Evans to score. Garrick converted the try from out wide for a 16-12 lead after 36 minutes.
Cody Walker returned to the field a minute later and Manly were forced to defend their quarter again inside the final minute but were unable to do so with lock Cameron Murray diving over the top to score next to the posts. Reynolds converted to give Souths an 18-16 lead at half-time.
Waddell then ran into a gap in the 45th minute but his pass inside to an unmarked Dylan Walker touched a Souths player, giving Manly the scrum feed. From the ensuring plays, Suli crashed over out wide a minute later after pushing off opposite centre Dane Gagai with a powerful fend and run. Garrick failed to convert the try to give Manly a 20-18 lead.
Manly was then left a player short in the 55th minute when Parker was sent to the sin-bin for tripping a Souths player in following a grubber kick in-goal. Reynolds converted a penalty goal from close range to make it 20-all with 25 minutes remaining.
Gosiewski then grounded a ball in-goal a minute later to score off a Cherry-Evans grubber kick to give Manly a 24-20 lead. Garrick converted the try for a 26-20 lead after 58 minutes.
The Sea Eagles then lost lock Jake Trbojevic with 13 minutes remaining to the sin-bin for 10 minutes for pushing Gaigai over in a Souths attacking raid inside Manly's half. It certainly was a tough call.
On the last tackle in the next set of six, Souths second-rower John Sutton sliced through the tired defence to score next to the posts. Reynolds converted for a 26-all scoreline with 10 minutes remaining.
Murray scored his second try when he picked up a loose pass to score out wide in the 71st minute for a 30-26 lead. Reynolds converted from out wide for a 32-26 lead.
Souths then got a penalty in front of the posts after Cherry-Evans failed to beat the drop out shot clock with a minute to go. Reynolds converted for a 34-26 win.
Souths, who finished the regular season in fourth place, now play Canberra Raiders at Canberra Stadium in the Preliminary Final next Friday night.