Manly Warringah Sea Eagles suffered their first loss of the NSWRL SG Ball Cup with a 26-24 loss to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Lottoland.
The Sea Eagles made a few changes to the team with Manly NRL Development squad players Kaeo Weekes and Tolu Koula coming into the side for the first time this season.
Coming off the back of a gutsy 16-6 win against Wests Magpies, the Sea Eagles came close to further extending their undefeated start, with Koula scoring an impressive hat- trick. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs bounced back and claimed a hard-fought victory in a tough battle.
Manly were under the pump in the opening stages of the game with the Bulldogs having a high amount of possession in their territory with consecutive sets at the line.
Twelve minutes in, Canterbury hooker Danny Ghantous darted 50 metres down the middle of the field, only to be denied by a sloppy pass and a number of Sea Eagles players coming in to wrap him up.
Minutes later, Bulldogs centre Eli Clark had another breakaway run for the away side but again, were unlucky and couldn’t capitalise on the chance.
Koula showed his skills and strength to score the first try of the game at the 16th minute. Halfback Jamie Humphreys converted to make the score 6-0.
Coming off the back of another big tackle break from Bulldogs centre Paul Alatomi, winger Brendon Tapuai scored in the 23rd minute after a smart kick across field by halfback Joseph O’Neill. Rajab missed the conversion for a 6-4 scoreline.
The Bulldogs scored with six minutes to go in the half with halfback O’Neill crossing for a try after a well-timed pass from Ghantous. Rajab converted to give the visitors a 10-6 lead.
They nearly added to their lead minutes later off the back of some strong runs but were held out and taken over the line by some gritty Manly defence for a 10-6 scoreline at the break.
Sea Eagles winger Cameron Brown opened the second half scoring after two minutes, with an amazing catch off a kick from Emmanuel Di Bartolo. Humphreys converted to give Manly a 12-10 lead.
Minutes later, Koula showed his blistering speed down the left edge to score his second try after leaving the Bulldogs defence in their wake. Humphreys made the conversion to further extend the lead to 18-10.
Koula completed his hat-trick in the 42nd minute, dazzling the defenders with his footwork to race over and score for the Sea Eagles. Humphreys converted for a 24-10 scoreline.
Canterbury bounced back 10 minutes later after five-eighth Khaled Rajab pushed past two defenders on the left edge before diving over under the posts. He converted his try to make the score 24-16.
Bulldogs winger Tapuai just made it across the line in the corner to score minutes later after a good break down field by prop Jack Todd and fullback Cameron Lawrence. Rajab missed the conversion for a 24-20 scoreline.
Canterbury levelled the game just shy of the hour mark as prop Lachlan Vale scored under the post after another well-timed pass at the line. Rajab converted the try to give the Bulldogs a 26-24 lead.
With minutes remaining and momentum swinging between both teams, Manly started to build the pressure, having several sets attacking at the Bulldogs’ line.
Despite some desperate defence from the visitors and Manly turning down two penalties within kicking range to level the scores, the Bulldogs held on to claim a 26-24 victory.