A gallant Manly Warringah Sea Eagles suffered a 40-24 loss to the Sydney Roosters at Leichhardt Oval today in round two of the NSWRL Jersey Flegg Cup.
In a most entertaining and physical encounter between two very quality teams, the Sea Eagles led 18-0 early before a Roosters comeback saw the home side lead 24-18 at half-time before pulling away late in the second half.
Although 11 tries were scored in 70 minutes through some great attacking plays, both teams fought it out defensively in a real heavyweight battle.
Manly prop Viliami Fifita, who spent the summer training with the Sea Eagles NRL squad, had a big game, making some powerful runs and scoring two tries.
The Sea Eagles opened the scoring in the third minute through a barnstorming run by Fifita who produced a big swan dive over the line after a nice ball from half-back Flynn Angles-Cork. Five-eighth Donovan Boney converted for a 6-0 lead.
A clever break by Angles-Corke saw him tackled just short of the line three minutes later. A quick play the ball and an inside pass by hooker Soakimi Folaumoeloa saw Fifita charge over from 10 metres out for his second. Boney converted for a 12-0 lead.
The Sea Eagles made it 16-0 when hooker Soakimi Folaumoeloa split the defence on the right edge to send lock Zac Fulton on a clear run to the line. Boney converted for the 18-0 lead.
The Roosters went over in the 19th minute after the ball was shifted quickly to the left for winger Jack Mossman to score in the corner. Half-back Ronald Volkman converted from the sideline for an 18-6 scoreline after 21 minutes.
A strong run by prop Zac Montgomery saw the Roosters cross for their second try in the 25th minute. Volkman converted for an 18-12 scoreline.
Two minutes later, the Roosters were in again when they found the Sea Eagles napping down the right edge for second-rower and captain Jacob Preston to find open space to send five-eighth Luke Knight over. Volkman converted for an 18-all scoreline after 29 minutes.
The Sea Eagles went close to scoring twice two minutes later. The first saw exciting young Manly full-back Kaeo Weekes held up over the line before Weekes threw a cut out pass two plays later to winger Cameron Brown who unfortunately put his foot into touch as he dived for the line.
It proved costly for the Sea Eagles with the Roosters scoring two minutes later through Preston after some sustained attacking pressure. Volkman converted to give the Roosters a 24-18 lead at half-time.
Three minutes after half-time, Mossman scored in his second try when he dived over in the corner after some quick hands caught the Sea Eagles short for a 28-18 lead. Volkman failed to convert from the sideline.
Some smart attacking play by Weekes saw him send Manly captain Jason Smyth over in the 43rd minute. Boney converted for a 28-24 scoreline.
The Sea Eagles were then left a man short for 10 minutes after forward Jack Gunton was sin-binned for a professional foul.
However, the Sea Eagles rallied deep in defence and soaked under some enormous pressure on their line despite being a player short.
The pressure told in the end though when Preston pushed off a couple of defenders to score near the posts in the 56th minute. Volkman converted for a 34-24 lead.
The Roosters secured victory four minutes from full-time after an initial break and offload by Mossman saw the ball spread through several sets of hands for opposite winger Vuate Karawalevu to score out wide. Volkman converted for the 40-24 scoreline.
Although beaten, the Sea Eagles showed they should be a force this season under Coach Adam McEwen after a much improved performance following a disappointing round one loss to Penrith.
Outside of Fifita, lock Zac Fulton and second-rower Oliver Clements worked tirelessly while winger Sanele Aukusitino made some strong carries.
Angles-Corke also had a smart game after shifting from full-back and combined well with Boney.
The Sea Eagles now play the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at 4 Pines Park at 4pm on Sunday, March 27, in the curtain raiser to the NRL match.