Tom Trbojevic inspired Manly to a courageous 14-6 win against Canberra that coach Des Hasler labelled one of the best in the Sea Eagles history before joining the club's lengthy casualty list.
Trbojevic scored a try and set up another after Manly were reduced to just 15 players within four minutes of kick-off, but then limped from the field early in the second half after clutching at his left hamstring.
Senior Manly players repeatedly told their teammates it would be one of the best wins they would ever be involved in if they could hang on for the final 28 minutes without the NSW and Australian star.
It is the same hamstring Trbojevic injured twice last season, a year in which he was sidelined for 15 matches. The early diagnosis for his latest injury is another six weeks out of the game.
The Sea Eagles were already without prop Martin Taupau, centre Moses Suli and winger Jorge Taufua for the clash with last year’s grand finalists and within minutes of the kick-off Dylan Walker and Brad Parker had joined them on the sideline.
Match: Raiders v Sea Eagles
Round 6 -
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney
The Sea Eagles finished the game with second-rowers Curtis Sironen and Jack Gosiewski playing in the centres, while Hasler had only one interchange remaining for the last 25 minutes.
"That's one of the best wins I've seen in a maroon and white jersey, especially against a quality side like Canberra," said Hasler, who played 256 matches for Manly and has coached the team on another 253 occasions.
"Wins like that build seasons. It's one of those games where you lose three players and you hang in there, you want to walk away with the points. It was plenty of guts shown and they hung in for each other.
Hasler not ready to push panic button over Turbo Tom injury
Walker is also facing a lengthy stint on the sideline after twisting his ankle in a third-minute tackle by Canberra second-rower Elliott Whitehead and the Manly five-eighth had to be assisted from the field.
The Sea Eagles lost Parker a minute later after he slipped over while running and sustained a heavy knock the head.
Raiders prop Sia Soliola was placed on report for a high tackle but isn't expected to have a case to answer when the match review committee look at the incident.
Replacement five-eighth Lachlan Croker had no time to settle in as he was called on to make a try-saving tackle on Nick Cotric in the next set of tackles before almost becoming another Manly casualty after a head clash with rookie winger Tevita Funa.
Hasler said Trbojevic and Walker would undergo scans on Sunday night.
Tom Trbojevic leaves field with injury
"I'm not too concerned," he said of Trbojevic. "Obviously, later in the season might have been a bit more drama but there's still time to go.
"He's just disappointed, he loves playing footy so that will be the hardest part for him. We'll get him back, he'll be okay."
With Croker defending near Gosiewski - who had replaced Parker - in a makeshift Sea Eagles backline, their left edge may have appeared to be an area the Raiders could exploit.
Instead, it that side of the field where Manly found their first-half points as Trbojevic targeted Raiders centre Curtis Scott to give the Sea Eagles an unlikely 12-0 lead at halftime.
Trbojevic scored in the 14th minute when he turned Scott inside out after receiving the ball 15 metres from the Canberra tryline and he then laid on a 37th minute try for Funa in almost identical circumstances.
Whitehead reduced Manly's lead to 12-6 in the 50th minute when he angled inside Sea Eagles centre Brendan Elliot off a short pass from five-eighth Jack Wighton.
Tom Trbojevic turns provider for Funa
Manly's injury woes then took a further turn for the worse when Trbojevic clutched at the back of his leg after stopping suddenly before being tackled and limped from the field in the 52nd minute.
A Rueben Garrick penalty goal gave the Sea Eagles an eight-point buffer in the 56th minute and they hung on to secure one of the most courageous wins in the history of the club.
Jarrod Croker, the Raiders captain, appeared to have scored in the 62nd minute when he flew high to snatch a George Williams bomb but the try was disallowed by the NRL Bunker after replays showed he had lost the ball.
New Zealand winger Jordan Rapana was then denied in the 72nd minute when he was forced into touch by a try-saving tackle by Sironen, who had shifted to right centre with Elliott at fullback in place of Trbojevic.
Manly have now won three of their four matches since the competition resumed following the COVID-19 shutdown.