A gutsy 12 man Manly Warringah Sea Eagles turned in a courageous performance in losing 40-22 to South Sydney Rabbitohs at Central Coast Stadium tonight.
The Sea Eagles lost second-rower Karl Lawton in the eighth minute after he was sent off for a dangerous lifting tackle on South Sydney captain Cameron Murray.
Despite being a man short for over 70 minutes, the Sea Eagles played with plenty of spirit and determination to push South Sydney until late in the game.
The match marked the first game of the season for skillful back-rower Josh Schuster after suffering an ankle injury at training in February, and the return of props Martin Taupau (covid protocols) and Sean Keppie (concussion).
Souths opened the scoring in the ninth minute through a penalty goal to full-back Blake Taaffe after Lawton was sent off.
A one-on-one strip from utility Dylan Walker in his first act on the field led to the first try of the match for the Sea Eagles in the 15th minute. Veteran five-eighth Kieran Foran dummied the ball 10 metres out and set his sights on the tryline, wrestling past two defenders to score.
The Bunker was unable to find a camera angle to go against the referee's call. Full-back Reuben Garrick converted for a 4-2 lead to Manly.
Manly had their second try in a matter of minutes through winger Jason Saab for his first try of the season after half-back Daly Cherry-Evans placed a bomb perfectly towards the right corner for Saab to leap high to score. Garrick converted from the sideline for a 10-2 lead.
Match Highlights: Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles
The Rabbitohs had their first try in the 27th minute after second-rower Keaon Koloamatangi scored near the posts. Taaffe converted for a 10-8 scoreline.
South Sydney utilised their advantage again to score five minutes later through Alex Johnston after a shift to the left edge. Taaffe failed to convert for a 12-10 lead.
Cherry-Evans stood up when his side needed him most and kicked a stunning 40/20 for another attacking set deep inside the Rabbitohs territory. With that, Manly had a try through winger Christian Tuipulotu in the 36th minute. Schuster held a defender up and lobbed the ball out with a no-look pass to Tuipulotu, who then spun away from a defender to crash over and score. Garrick was successful with his conversion attempt as the Sea Eagles regained the lead at 16-12.
South Sydney once again used their advantage and shifted the ball from one side of the field to the other, picking apart the defence to score on the stroke of half-time through centre Isaiah Tass after an earlier forced pass from Taupau. Taaffe converted to give his side an 18-16 lead at half-time.
South Sydney had the first points in the second half through prop Thomas Burgess in the 46th minute. Taaffe converted to extend their lead to 24-16. Manly centre Brad Parker succumbed to a knee injury from the first half and was unfortunately forced from the field.
The Rabbitohs scored again four minutes later through five-eighth Cody Walker as the Sea Eagles began to feel the fatigue. Taaffe made the conversion from the sideline for a 30-16 lead.
Manly were awarded a penalty try in the 58th minute after a combination between the two halves. The ball was shifted out left to Foran, who then turned back inside and placed a grubber kick through to the chasing Cherry-Evans. The Rabbitohs were lost and in their attempt to kick the ball dead, impeded 'DCE' to stop him from grounding the ball as Damien Cook grabbed his arms, leading to the penalty try call. Garrick successfully converted from in front of the posts for a 30-22 scoreline.
The Rabbitohs finally cracked through Manly’s strong defence and scored in the 70th minute through Cameron Murray. Taaffe converted from in front to take his side's lead out to 14 points.
Round 8: Post Match Press Conference
South Sydney scored their final try on the stroke of full-time through Taaffe for a 40-22 scoreline.
The Sea Eagles return to 4 Pines Park to play the Wests Tigers in Round 9 of the NRL Telstra Premiership on Saturday May 7, at 3pm.