Manly Warringah Sea Eagles recorded a solid 28-4 win over the Wests Tigers in their opening NRL trial of the season at Leichhardt Oval tonight.
In the second match of a double-header, Sea Eagles Coach Des Hasler fielded two sides for the 80 minute contest.
The Sea Eagles fielded their strongest side possible in the first half, including Captain Daly Cherry-Evans and Dally M Medal winner Tom Trbojevic.
The Sea Eagles second half side (Team B) showcased various players from across the club's lower grades.
Manly started the match perfectly when centre Brad Parker crashed over on the left edge for the first try after a short ball from full-back Tom Trbojevic. Winger Reuben Garrick, who scored a club record 334 points in the 2021 season, was unsuccessful with his conversion attempt, bringing the score to 4-0 in the second minute.
Despite Manly’s best attempts in defence, the Tigers responded in the 10th minute through back-rower Kelma Tuilagi as he stretched across the line for a try. Halfback Luke Brooks missed his conversion attempt to make the scores level at 4-all.
Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma was awarded a try in the 16th minute, which was ultimately overturned minutes later after five-eighth Kieran Foran was deemed to have been obstructed in the lead up to the try.
The weather conditions began to worsen as the clock ticked past 20 minutes, with both sides finding it harder to hold onto the ball. Lock Sean Keppie was forced from the field in the 24th minute after taking a head knock in a tackle attempt. Despite this, the Sea Eagles pushed on as Captain Daly Cherry-Evans kicked a huge 40/20.
In the set that followed, Manly struck for their second try of the match on the left edge again through Garrick.
Match Highlights: Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles
Tom Trbojevic and new second rower Ethan Bullemor, in his first game for Manly after leaving the Brisbane Broncos, combined with some good ball work to send the winger over untouched. Garrick failed to convert his own try in windy conditions, taking the score to 8-4 with just over 10 minutes to half-time.
In the final minute of the half, Manly winger Christian Tuipulotu dived over for a try on his 21st Birthday.
It came after Cherry-Evans faked a kick on the last tackle and popped the ball up for Tom Trbojevic who ran just past the ruck. From there, the star fullback darted away from defenders and made his way to the right edge of the field to find his brother Ben, who dragged in the opposing defender to send Tuipulotu over,
Garrick failed to convert, bringing the score to 12-4 at half-time.
With the second half commencing, Team B made their way to the field. Tolu Koula, who recorded an official track time of 10.58sec in the 100m AAGPS Athletics Championship in 2019, slotted into fullback. Halfback Kaeo Weekes and hooker Jamie Humphreys, who made their way through Manly’s SG Ball side, lined up alongside a list of players from the NRL squad and other promising players.
The Tigers had another try overturned in the 50th minute after hooker Rua Ngatikaura dropped the ball while attempting to ground after Humphreys did enough to dislodge the ball from his opposing hooker’s grip.
Manly winger Raymond Vaega, who scored six tries in 11 Jersey Flegg matches last year, scored a stunning try in the 57th minute after chasing down a high kick and outjumping Wests’ fullback to snatch the ball and race away for the Sea Eagles' fourth try. Humphreys converted for an 18-4 lead.
Hooker Gordon Chan Kum Tong, who was the captain of the SG Ball side in 2021, made his way onto the field as the Sea Eagles continued to rotate their side. A successful Captain’s Challenge from the Sea Eagles inside the Tigers 20 metre line brought another opportunity for the team.
Twelve minutes from full-time, a strong run to the line by prop Toff Sipley saw him pop a ball to five-eighth Kaeo Weeks to dive over only for the NRL bunker to rule an obstruction call on back-rower Viliami Fifita.
Vaega then made it a night to remember, scoring twice in the 74th and 79th minutes to bring up a hat-trick. Humphreys converted one of the tries for the 28-4 win.
The Sea Eagles finish off their NRL trials with a clash against the Canberra Raiders at Central Coast Stadium at 6pm next Friday.