It was the match that Mounties would announce themselves as a premiership force in 2015, and also marked the coming-out party for human wrecking ball, Luke Page.
Looking to keep their perfect start to the season intact, Mounties trailed 18-4 against a motivated Manly side determined to score an upset win.
Behind a demolishing Page (who would eventually earn a NRL first grade contract with the St. George-Illawarra Dragons mid season) Mounties powered their way back for a tense 26-24 win to start their season with five wins on the trot and put Manly behind the eight-ball in their campaign.
Mounties remain undefeated after overcoming a 14-point deficit to seize a 26-24 victory over the Manly Sea Eagles.
After conceding 16 unanswered points in their 32-26 loss against the Newtown Jets last week, it was a bitter disappointment for the Sea Eagles in relinquishing another sizable lead.
Manly were motivated to score the upset win in jumping out to an early 18-4 lead but VB man of the match, Luke Page, inspired Mounties to keep their perfect record intact after five rounds.
The rampaging prop forward Page was a relentless human wrecking ball colliding into anyone that dared to try to bring him down. At times it was like watching someone crashing into bowling pins in charging over the top of anyone that stood in his way.
For the Sea Eagles, Jayden Hodges was sensational as he continuously marked his imprint on the match. Hodges was a constant spark out of dummy half troubling Mounties defenders.
Falling behind 4-0, Manly found success under the high ball in targeting Mounties winger Bill Tupou for their opening two tries. It was a difficult task for Tupou who had to battle with the bright sun as he was peppered with high kicks.
Manly took a 6-4 lead as Dylan Kelly knocked the ball back from the bomb for his winger Ben Fritz to score.
It didn’t take Manly long to score again when Tyson Andrews scored from another fifth-tackle kick. Andrews dived on the loose ball from the high kick for Manly to extend their lead 12-4.
Riding a wave momentum, Manly capitalised to score their third straight try with Hodges setting up Uiti Baker with a clever ball to crash under the posts and extend their lead to 18-4.
All of the Sea Eagles’ hard work came undone before halftime however, due to their inability to field the kick-off. At times, it was a comedy of errors for both sides that would have made their respective coaches wonder what on earth was going on.
Mounties exploited the Sea Eagles’ errors to score two tries in the final seven minutes of the first half. Mitch Barnett provided a lovely offload to Mitch Cronin just before the line to cut the deficit to 18-10. That was followed by a simple try in the last minute of the first half as Kurt Baptiste dived out of dummy half for Mounties to trail 18-16 at halftime.
The second-half proved to be a real arm wrestle as the scores see-sawed.
Mounties took a 20-18 lead when Mitch Cornish made his way across field for Cronin to find Gus Aiga to score the easy try in the corner. It didn’t take the Sea Eagles long to strike back with Dom Reardon the beneficiary of a clever in-out pass 10 metres from the line. Kurt Aldridge added the extras for Manly to lead 24-20
Mounties were back on the attack when Jack Ahearn fielded a grubber kick to sprint 30 metres and receive the penalty to march downfield. On the ensuing set, Ahearn put Aiga over for his second try with a superb cut-out pass. Cornish converted for Mounties to lead 26-24 with 20 minutes remaining.
Manly had a final opportunity to score on the siren but it wasn’t to be as Mounties hung onto their slim two-point victory to retain their perfect record.
Mounties 26 (Gus Aiga 2, Mitch Cronin, Mitch Cornish, Kurt Baptiste tries; Cornish 3 goals) bt Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 24 (Ben Fritz, Dom Reardon, Tyson Andrews, Uiti Baker tries; Kurt Aldridge 4 goals)