An impressive second half performance has seen the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles record a 32-18 win over the St George-Illawarra Dragons at Cbus Super Stadium tonight.
In the second match of an NRL Double Header as part of the NRL premiership being relocated to Queensland this week, the Sea Eagles went into the game deciding to rest Origin players Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic after playing on Wednesday night at Cbus Super Stadium.
Josh Schuster returned at half-back from a calf injury.
Some early infringements from the Sea Eagles invited the Dragons into their territory. Despite a handful of chances, Manly managed to hold on thanks to some strong goal-line defence as the players continued to settle into the match.
The Dragons scored the first try through fullback Tyrell Sloan in the sixth minute after a break down the right edge. Centre Jack Bird converted from in front for a 6-0 scoreline.
The Sea Eagles struck in the 13th minute with a try of their own through centre Morgan Harper. Second-rower Haumole Olakau’atu had a strong carry in which he dragged in four players before offloading to the tryscorer who dived over close to the posts. Full-back Reuben Garrick made the conversion to level the score at 6-all.
After setting up the previous try with a barnstorming run, Olakau’atu got his hands on the ball again in almost identical field position and pushed off another two players to ground the ball six minutes later. Garrick nailed the conversion ten metres in from touch to bring the score to 12-6 in favour of the Sea Eagles.
After suffering in possession for a period of time, the Dragons bounced back and scored their second try in the 24th minute through forward Josh McGuire after he crashed over the line. Bird made the conversion from next to the posts to level the score at 12-all.
Manly held out some desperate Dragons attack but eventually succumbed to a penalty metres out from their line after giving away another set of six, halting the play. Choosing not to attack, Bird converted the penalty goal to give his side a 14-12 lead.
An inch-perfect crossfield kick from utility Dylan Walker almost saw a try from winger Jason Saab, who came flying in over the defence but was unable to get a hold of the ball.
Back-rower Karl Lawton was unfortunately forced from the field with minutes to play in the first half with the Dragons taking a two point lead into the break.
The Sea Eagles came flying out of the gates in the second half and scored after one minute through experienced five-eighth Kieran Foran. Schuster was influential in the play, with two no-look passes in the lead up to assist the try. Garrick made the conversion to regain the lead 18-14.
In the five minutes that followed, the Dragons made another error and were forced into a dropout through Foran, with Manly looking to extend their lead.
The attacking chances and continuous pressure saw interchange utility Cade Cust reach over for a try in the 46th minute.
The sneaky player dummied out right and tucked the ball in before carrying four players and stretching out to ground the ball. Garrick was successful with his conversion attempt as the lead was extended to 24-14.
With only their second set of the half, the Dragons were kept inside their own 30 metre line with Garrick taking the ball on the full to make his way back into the middle of the field.
The trailing side were given a lifeline off the back of a penalty for obstruction, now holding the ball inside Manly’s half. Despite this, Foran rushed up out of the line to force another error, hitting Bird just underneath the ball and regaining possession.
Parker found himself on the scoresheet for the Sea Eagles in the 58th minute, running a stunning line off Foran, who held up the ball immaculately and guided the centre through a gap in the defence for an easy try, the third of the half. Garrick made the conversion to bring the score to 30-14.
The Dragons continued to build possession and were inching closer to the tryline. Despite this, the Sea Eagles tightened in defence and managed to keep them out, with both sides of the field coming in clutch as they forced an error late in the set to get the ball back.
Despite countless sets of six and rising possession, the Dragons looked lost as they still couldn’t crack Manly’s defence, with prop Tofofoa Sipley making a one-on-one strip just in front of his tryline to regain the ball.
After getting lucky and regaining the ball around the halfway line, the Dragons scored with eight minutes to play after a kick from the scrum. Hunt kicked the ball over the top and found Sloan, who offloaded to winger Gerard Beale before being taken over the line. Beale raced away for the try, with Bird missing the conversion for a 30-18 scoreline.
Suli won a penalty 20 metres out from the line after having the ball stripped out of his hands illegally, with Garrick converting the penalty goal to give his side another two points with four minutes left on the clock.
After a strong run from prop Martin Taupau, Cust kicked a massive 40/20 with a minute and a half to play, despite the pressure from three opposing players. They were unable to add any more points as the siren sounded for a 32-18 win.
Garrick finished with 12 points (five conversions and one penalty goal) leaving him just shy of the 200-point mark in the NRL Telstra Premiership (198).
Olakau’atu had one try, one try assist and 116 metres meanwhile Foran starred with one try, one try assist, two tackle breaks and 14 tackles.
Croker led the tackle count with 35, followed by Taupau with 28. Schuster made a massive return from injury with two try assists, two line breaks, eight tackle breaks and 20 tackles on a great night for the side.
The Sea Eagles are the home side in Round 19 as they face the Wests Tigers at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday July 24 at 5.30pm.