The New Zealand Warriors have managed to hold off a fighting Manly Sea Eagles outfit, running out 24-22 victors in a thrilling contest at Brookvale Oval on Sunday afternoon.
The home side managed to claim an early lead in the first half with two converted tries in the opening 20 minutes of the game, only for the Warriors to fight back strongly with three unanswered tries to take a 6 point lead at the break. A try a piece in the second half and a missed conversion proved to be the only difference as a brave Manly side just couldn’t manage to find any luck and falling just short of the competition heavyweights.
A strong opening 5 minutes from both sides were signs of a tough contest between two teams sitting in polar opposite positions on the competition ladder, with both forward packs laying an early platform for some impressive attacking raids and some committed defence in return.
As both teams attempted to earn some valuable field position, a beautiful short ball from Mason Lino put Shaun Lane through a gaping hole as he was pulled down one metre out from the try line, whilst also earning his team a penalty. Despite the early chance, the visitors failed to capitalise and the score remained 0-0 after 10 minutes.
Off the back of some outstanding goal line defence, the Eagles were able to march down the field and claim first points of the afternoon, with Peter Schuster crashing his way over thanks to a perfect offload from his halfback Pita Godinet.
Manly extended their lead 10 minutes later through winger Ben Fritz, as he pounced on a loose ball after a pin point cross field bomb found some open space in the left hand corner. Dylan Kelly landed his second sideline conversion and extended the lead to 12-0 at the 20 minute mark.
Despite an outstanding opening 20 minutes from Manly, an unlikely error coming out of their own end gifted the Warriors the perfect opportunity to claim first points of the afternoon. Moments later, Upu Poching barged his way over right under the uprights to reduce the lead to just a converted try with 15 minutes remaining in the first half.
Warriors found themselves right in to the contest shortly after their first try, bouncing back to life with some barnstorming runs from John Palavi and Shaun Lane putting them in great field position to draw level in the contest. Mason Lino then sliced his way through the Manly defence with a brilliant dummy to bring the game to 12 all just before halftime.
Warriors crossed again through fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad just one set later, after he supported some great lead up play through Semisi Tyrrell, who streaked down the sideline thanks to a brilliant offload from Ofahiki Ogden. Lino again converted, closing out the first half with the Warriors taking a slight lead 18-12 after the first 40.
Both teams came out firing after the drinks break, and the Warriors were keen to extend their lead with some razzle dazzle footy and exciting second phase play nearly paying off, only to knock the ball on five metres out from the Manly try line.
Some threatening backline movements from Manly continued to test the defence of the Visitors, and they eventually found a way through with Cameron Davis reaping the rewards of a classy backline movement and outstanding flick pass as he crossed for Manly’s third try of the afternoon. Kelly continuted to impresss with the boot as he nailed another sideline conversion to take the game to 18 all after 50 minutes.
Ben Fritz looked for all money to score in the corner and claim the lead for Manly, only for his counterpart to tackle him a metre out from the try line after significant efforts from the home side to to capitalise on some repeat sets in the Warriors red zone.
Whilst the game was a toughly fought battle from both sides, it took a clumsy mistake from Manly to gift the Warriors the lead, as Nathanial Roach picked up a loose ball and sprinted away to cross under the black dot to claim the crucial try the Warriors were looking for, grasping the lead with a converted try with just over 10 minutes to play.
Manly managed to reply shortly after the Warriors try, after a penalty to the home side gifted them a repeat set and the perfect opportunity to draw the game level. A beautiful cut out pass from Godinet gifted Davis his second try of the game, only for Kelly to miss the tough sideline conversion and keep the score at 24-22 with 3 minutes left in a nail-biting contest.
A final play from Manly saw Ben Fritz score in the corner in the final minute of the game, only for Isaac John’s bullet like cut out pass was ruled to have gone forward by the referee.
The final call was the end to an unexpected thriller at Brookvale Oval, with the Warriors holding on 24-22 to sink the hearts of Manly after a valiant effort from a team sitting second last on the competition ladder.