They trailed on the scoreboard for 79 minutes, but the Manly Sea Eagles stole a 26-24 victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs at Belmore Oval in what was an absolute thriller.
Hugh Pratt had a conversion attempt to win the game from 15 metres out wide, and he certainly did not let his team-mates down with a wonderful kick that scraped inside the left upright.
Api Koroisau was explosive from dummy half, while Blake Leary and Addin Fonua-Blake were outstanding in what was the return of Jamie Buhrer since breaking his jaw in the Auckland Nines.
The Bulldogs were unlucky to not come away with a point, as halves pairing Matt Frawley and Dane Chisholm were extremely dangerous and had outstanding respective matches.
In what was the Sea Eagles’ first opportunity to attack, an enormous big hit by Reubenn Rennie forced an error, which allowed the Bulldogs to march up-field. Later in the set, a simple right-to-left shift created a massive overlap, allowing Jarrod McInally to score a relatively simply try in the corner.
A dropped ball off the kick-off gave the Sea Eagles immediate possession, and they spent the next 10 minutes dominating field position. Pita Godinet helped lock the scores up to 4-all when he delivered a short ball for Blake Leary to charge through a gap and plant the ball down.
A pinpoint long kick by Chisholm sat up in the in-goal area, and as the Bulldogs were attempting to tackle Ben Fritz, the ball came loose and was dived on by Frawley to take the lead back at halftime.
Tyrone Phillips made a dash down the right sideline just five minutes into the second half, and the ball was stripped out into touch, which gave the Bulldogs a chance to attack.
Some unbelievable skill displayed by Holland to pick up a poor pass off his boots led to Phillips finishing off what he started, and increased the Bulldogs lead to 14-4.
The ten-point-buffer was short lived, as almost immediately afterwards, Sea Eagles prop Addin Fonua-Blake made a long-range linebreak towards the line, before throwing an optimistic offload for Fabian Goodall to score under the posts.
Expansive football was the theme of the Bulldogs in 2015, and the next try showed glimpses of the Preliminary Finalists of last season. Rennie made a dash down the left sideline, before Brad Abbey put in an in-field grubber for Frawley to chase and plant the ball down just inside the dead ball line for his second try of the afternoon.
The Sea Eagles refused to give up, and again decreased the lead to four when Godinet picked up the ball from dummy half, bounced off the padding of the left upright and scored.
Off the kick-off set, the Manly side marched up field and earned a repeat set after a Bulldogs knock on. Koroisau, however, did not need the whole set, as he darted over from dummy half to score on tackle one, locking up the scores at 20-all with only 12 minutes remaining.
The Sea Eagles momentum was suddenly halted when the Bulldogs took back the lead. Instead of taking the field goal option, Chisholm ran the ball laterally, and showed tremendous speed to create an overlap for Rennie to score.
With under three minutes remaining, Shaun Lane threw an intercept to gift the Sea Eagles one last chance.
Godinet dribbled in a grubber into the in-goal, before Leary chased and dived full stretch to plant the ball down and lock up the scores. The referee added to the drama by calling time-off to consult his touch judge before awarding the try.
The pressure was on Pratt to convert the try to win the match, and he wasted no time slotting the kick to give the Sea Eagles their first game of the season in an absolute thriller.
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