By Michael Mapstone
Manly survived a second half fight back by the Wests Tigers for a hard-earned and important 28-22 win at Brookvale Oval.
The home side started in ideal fashion with Tyson Andrews diving on a short grubber from Jaydon Hodges at the end of the Sea Eagles’ first attacking set and Manaia Rudolph converted from in front.
Wests Tigers hit back five minutes later after earning a penalty close to the line. The ball was spun left and centre Jy Hitchcox found space to dive over out wide. Manly remained in front 6-4 when Daniel Abou-Sleiman missed the conversion attempt.
Four minutes later the visitors crossed again, when a deflected kick was re-gathered, creating an overlap that allowed Hitchcox to nab his second and give his side an 8-6 lead.
Manly regained the lead at the 17 minute mark when halfback Rudolph steamed on to a good ball from Daniel Harrison to find the line. He then converted his own try.
When Sea Eagles centre Domenic Reardon pounced on another deft Hodges grubber at the 24 minute mark the lead was extended to 16-8.
The Manly side put on a sweeping backline movement nine minutes later that provided the overlap for Jayden Horo to score in the corner and a sweetly struck sideline conversion by Rudolph stretched the margin to 14 points.
Just a minute before the break Manly fullback Clint Gutherson ran on to a fantastic offload from fellow NSW under-20 rep Jake Trbojevic to extend the score line to 26-8.
The visitors showed they clearly weren’t about to give up as Jack Buchanan barged his way to the line five minutes after the break. Trent Jennings’ conversion struck the upright and bounced through to close the gap to 12 points.
Then just three minutes later a Tigers’ midfield kick resulted in a scramble for the ball, Wests regathering and sending the ball to Marika Koroibete, who showed remarkable strength to fend away Gutherson as he skirted the sideline and scored in the corner.
Although Jennings missed the conversion the Tigers were buoyed. The enthusiasm from both sides nearly boiled over as a scuffle ensued from the kick-off.
When Koroibete scored his second in the same left hand corner with 26 minutes still remaining the match Wests were still been behind 26-22, but it seemed the momentum was with them.
In a gripping final period Manly gradually wrestled the momentum away from the visitors, although neither side was able to break the other’s line.
A penalty seven minutes from time allowed Rudolph to push the score out to 28-22 and from there the home side hung on for what, in the end, was a gritty victory.
After a slow start to the season Manly has now won three of its last four matches and will be looking to maintain is form when it returns to Brookvale this Saturday to take on the New Zealand Warriors.
The Tigers remain in the top eight and face an away match against Cronulla.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 28 (C Gutherson, D Reardon, J Horo, M Rudolph, T Andrews tries; M Rudolph 4 goals) def. Wests Tigers 22 (M Koroibete 2, J Hitchcox 2, I Inosesio tries; T Jennings goal) at Brookvale Oval