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Sea Eagles forced to fight hard in win over Bulldogs

A clunky Manly Warringah Sea Eagles recorded a 36-18 victory over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in a hard fought match at Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe today.

The Sea Eagles overcame a 12-10 deficit at half-time before full-back Tom Trbojevic scored three second half tries in a win that saw Manly move into fourth spot with one round of the Telstra Premiership remaining.

A set restart in favour of the Sea Eagles handed them a fresh set inside the Bulldogs’ territory, inviting the first chance of the match with three minutes played.

Full-back Tom Trbojevic freed up winger Reuben Garrick with some space on the left edge. Garrick pushed over and attempted to ground the ball but was denied by Canterbury fullback Nick Meaney.

A smart grubber kick in behind play from five-eighth Kieran Foran gave his side a repeat set, eventually leading to the first points of the match.

Winger Jason Saab scored his 21st try of the season in the eighth minute after centre Morgan Harper held up the ball long enough to give him space to dive over untouched. Garrick failed to convert from the sideline to make the score 4-0.

After a handful of errors and mistakes from both sides, the Sea Eagles had their backs against the wall and were forced to defend on their own line. The Bulldogs continuously attempted to push forward with early kicks but were shut down in the air by Saab and Trbojevic who defused each of the situations.

Manly utility Dylan Walker stepped up with an impressive defensive display, picking up Bulldogs prop Ava Seumanufagai metres out from the line and dragging him back over the tryline to force a dropout.

In the next set, Saab was denied a second try in the 23rd minute after a diving effort in the right corner. The play was originally awarded a try but was reviewed and overturned.

Breaking out of a scrum, Canterbury levelled the score three minutes later through second-rower Matt Doorey. Halfback Kyle Flanagan converted from in front to give his side a 6-4 lead.

The Bulldogs went back-to-back and made their way downfield to score again in the 29th minute through winger Jayden Okunbor. Flanagan made the conversion to extend his side's lead to 12-4.

The Sea Eagles got themselves back into the game with seven minutes to play in the first half, scoring through second-rower Haumole Olakau’atu. The two halves combined with Daly Cherry-Evans finding a gap in the Bulldogs defence after a well-timed pass from Foran. The halfback ran hard at the fullback and held the ball up long enough before passing it out to the big back-rower who strolled over for his seventh try this season. Garrick made the conversion to bring the score to 12-10.

Match Highlights: Sea Eagles v Bulldogs

Despite dominating the possession 60-40 percent and a handful of late chances in the last minute, the Sea Eagles weren’t able to capitalise on the opportunity and went into the sheds for the break with a two point deficit.

Manly put on the pressure early in the second half, having forced a line dropout and getting a set restart in the opening two minutes.

With four minutes played, Tom Trbojevic came flying on the inside of Foran who popped the ball up underneath him.

Bulldogs prop Jack Hetherington put up a fight but couldn’t contain ‘Turbo’, who wrestled away from him to ground the ball for his 20th try of the season. Garrick converted to give his side a 16-12 lead.

In the set following the kick-off, Manly prop Josh Aloiai was sent to the sin bin for lashing out with his legs and accidentally making contact with the opposition.

Despite being a man down, the Sea Eagles banded together and showed strength in defence  to keep Canterbury out on two different occasions.

Manly were denied a chance to further extend their lead in the 53rd minute as Cherry-Evans and Trbojevic combined to surge their way downfield. The fullback supported his halfback and found himself in open space. After attempting to drag in his opposite number, Trbojevic passed the ball to Saab who was unfortunately dragged out metres from the try line moments later.

Three minutes after Saab’s denied try, ‘Turbo’ was inches away from having his second. After latching onto a crossfield kick with a stunning catch, Trbojevic tried to break away from the tackle and ground the ball but was stopped by some desperate Bulldogs defence on the line, turning over the ball in the process.

Prop Martin Taupau gained a penalty in the 60th minute off the back of a strong run and the decision to go for a penalty shot was made, with Garrick stepping up to convert and give his side a six point lead.

The Sea Eagles struck six minutes after the penalty goal to score again after second-rower Josh Schuster switched direction and ran back inside before delivering a flat pass to Trbojevic to score his second try. Garrick converted from in front for a 24-12 lead.

A barnstorming run from Taupau saw Manly push towards the try line which led to Trbojevic’s hat-trick with seven minutes to play.

‘Turbo’ ran on the inside of Foran who popped up the ball for him. From there, the fullback found a gap in the defence, bumped past Nick Meaney and grounded the ball under the posts. Garrick made the conversion for a 30-12 scoreline.

Bulldogs second-rower Jackson Topine scored a try from the kick-off after some miscommunication from the Sea Eagles and Flanagan converted to make the score 30-18.

With seconds remaining, the Sea Eagles closed the gates and scored a length of the field try. Cherry-Evans rushed up out of the line and intercepted the ball from inside his own ten metre line before handing the ball off to Saab to race away to score his second try to join Trbojevic on 22 tries for the season. Garrick converted for the 36-18 scoreline.

The Sea Eagles now play the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday September 4, 5.30pm, at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville.