Manly Warringah Sea Eagles suffered a heart-breaking 34-32 loss to the Wests Tigers at Lottoland tonight in round 17 of the Telstra Premiership.
The match saw the NRL debut of Josh Schuster at five-eighth and the club debut of centre Morgan Harper. Hooker Danny Levi played his 100th NRL game.
Nineteen-year-old Schuster is a product of the successful Sea Eagles Elite Pathways program after first joining Manly at age 14.
The Sea Eagles made sure 22 year-old Harper celebrated early too when he crossed for the opening try out wide in the third minute. Half-back Daly Cherry-Evans failed to convert the try.
Harper almost had a double five minutes later but was held up over the line by some desperate Tigers defence.
Some nice passing by Schuster and Cherry-Evans saw winger Jorge Taufua crash over in the corner for an 8-0 lead after nine minutes. Cherry-Evans failed to convert the try from the sideline.
The Tigers hit back when winger David Nofoaluma scored in the 15th minute from a Benji Marshall grubber kick behind the line. Centre Adam Doueihi converted from the sideline for an 8-6 scoreline.
The Sea Eagles responded in a perfect way when second-rower Jack Gosiewski swooped on a Cherry-Evans grubber kick to score next to the posts. Cherry-Evans converted for a 14-6 lead after 20 minutes.
Full-back Tevita Funa then threw a dummy and stepped back inside to cross next to the posts in the 27th minute. Cherry-Evans converted for a 20-6 lead.
Four minutes later, Taufua left the field. He was later diagnosed with a calf injury.
Nofoaluma grabbed his second try with three minutes remaining when he stepped his way past three defenders to score next to the posts from a loose pass. Doueihi converted for a 20-12 scoreline.
The Tigers reduced the margin to four in the 54th minute when full-back Moses Mbye crossed out wide. Doueihi converted for a 20-18 scoreline after 55 minutes.
A superb ball by prop Martin Taupau saw lock Jake Trbojevic hit a hole to score next to the posts. Cherry-Evans converted to give Manly a 26-18 lead after 59 minutes.
Harper then celebrated his second try after being on the end of a superb pass from Cherry-Evans. The half-back converted for a 32-18 lead after 67 minutes.
Doueihi pulled the margin back a little when he crossed for a try in the left corner two minutes later. He converted his own try for a 32-24 scoreline with nine minutes remaining.
Nofoaluma grabbed his second career hat-trick when he dived over with seven minutes remaining. Doueihi failed to convert the try for a 32-28 scoreline.
Doueihi then scored off a crossfield kick by Luke Brooks to score next to the posts for a 32-all scoreline. He converted his own try for a 34-32 lead with just over a minute remaining.
The loss was Manly's sixth consecutive defeat and leaves them in 12th place on 12 points
The Sea Eagles now play the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium next Friday night.