A disappointing Manly Warringah Sea Eagles suffered a 30-16 loss to the Canberra Raiders at 4 Pines Park tonight in round 17 of the Telstra Premiership.
It was the first premiership match played at 4 Pines Park without a crowd due to the current NSW Government lockdown around COVID-19.
Experienced five-eighth Kieran Foran captained Manly for the first time in his 161st game for the Sea Eagles with regular captain Daly Cherry-Evans unavailable due to Origin duty with Queensland. Foran become the 65th Manly captain since the Club's first season in 1947.
Manly started off the match with a strong attacking set, and through the players in the middle of the paddock, continued to rush up to keep Canberra inside their own half early on. Prop duo Taniela Paseka and Martin Taupau both stood up with big-impact runs to propel their side forward.
Reuben Garrick, who was filling in at fullback for NSW representative Tom Trbojevic, was tackled around the head, gaining his side a penalty. Three tackles later, he was involved again with a strong 20 metre run in the fifth minute as the Sea Eagles continued to knock at Canberra’s tryline.
Halfback Dylan Walker, who was starting in the position for the first time in his career, snuck over for the first try in the seventh minute. After breaking out of the scrum, Walker grabbed the ball and ran towards the left corner before straightening up and easily brushing past Sam Williams to score. Garrick failed to convert for a 4-0 lead.
An error from the Raiders just shy of the halfway line handed the Sea Eagles another opportunity and nearly another try, with Brad Parker diving over in the 14th minute after a phenomenal cut-out pass from five-eighth Kieran Foran. The play was unfortunately not rewarded a try with Parker dropping the ball over the line.
With nearly 20 minutes played, the Sea Eagles were leading the possession, line breaks and run metres as they continued to search for a second try. Around that same time, forward Jack Gosiewski made his return to the field for his first match since round five.
Manly showed they were able to defend at the same level as they were able to attack, with Walker and Foran combining in two consecutive tackles in the 22nd minute to hold out Canberra in their first attacking chance of the match.
Foran stood his ground and completed a strong tackle just shy of the line, meanwhile his halves partner gathered up the ball off a grubber kick to halt the attack.
Despite the strong defence at the line, the Sea Eagles unfortunately slipped up and conceded when Canberra utility Tom Starling levelled the score in the 28th minute, sneaking out of dummy half after a quick play the ball and diving over under the posts for a try. Centre Jarrod Croker converted the try to give his side a 6-4 lead.
After then having 11 of the last 12 sets, Canberra finally broke past the strength of the Sea Eagles defence, with Williams throwing a dummy pass before diving over under the posts again. Croker converted to extend his side's lead to 12-4 which they took into half-time.
An early error off the first tackle in the second half put the Sea Eagles on the back foot but they managed to hang on and the ball was kicked over the deadball line, still looking to get themselves back into the match.
Another silly error from Manly just inside their own territory gave the Raiders another set of six, with Foran putting his body on the line and taking a catch before being forced over the tryline for the seventh dropout of the night.
Williams scored his second try for Canberra in the 51st minute, running at the line and finding a gap. Garrick went close to holding him up, until the opposing halfback was pushed over the line by his teammate before eventually grounding it. Croker made the conversion to bring the score to 18-4.
Struggling for possession, Manly had to try something against the Raiders’ compressed defence. A chip over the top from Walker to centre Morgan Harper seemed to work, only for the ball to be turned over moments later when winger Jason Saab was forced to throw the ball back into the field of play, finding the opposition player.
The Raiders continued to pile on the pressure, with a miscommunication under the high ball from the Sea Eagles leading to another try for Canberra five minutes from their last. Centre Sebastian Kris dived onto the ball in the in-goal area, as Croker converted to make the score 24-4.
An unsuccessful captain’s challenge from the Raiders handed the Sea Eagles possession 20 metres out. Following a handful of six-more sets, Manly second-rower Haumole Olakau’atu stepped up with a barnstorming run, in which he ran over three players, to score for his side in the 64th minute. Garrick converted for a 24-10 scoreline.
Match Highlights: Sea Eagles v Raiders
Another chance came from two of Manly’s forwards, with Taupau finding fellow forward Toafofoa Sipley at the line and sending him into the gap. Sipley was in the clear and made it past the fullback, but was brought down and eventually forced from the field with an injury resulting from the tackle.
Manly winger Moses Suli went through the defence almost untouched for the Sea Eagles third try of the night after running a strong line underneath Foran in the 70th minute. Garrick quickly converted to bring the score back within eight points to 24-16.
With six minutes to play, Canberra prop Emre Guler crashed over to seemingly close out the match for the away side. Croker’s conversion attempt was successful as he took the score to 30-16.
Errors and infringements handed the away side a high amount of possession, making Manly pay for their mistakes.
Lachlan Croker topped the side for tackles with 59, followed by Keppie (44) and Karl Lawton (42). Garrick and Walker stood out for metres made (171 and 159 metres respectively).
Manly host the St George Illawarra Dragons at 4 Pines Park on Friday, July 16, at 7.55pm, in Round 18 of the NRL Telstra Premiership.