Manly one step closer to the minor premiership
Manly have taken another major stride towards winning their first minor premiership in 17 years, grinding out a 16-4 win against Brisbane at Brookvale Oval on Friday night.
After a five-day turnaround following their hard-fought victory over the Warriors in New Zealand, Geoff Toovey's men scored the only two tries of the second half in an entertaining display in front of a crowd of 12,873.
Brookvale has again been a happy hunting ground for Manly this season - they've now won eight in a row at their spiritual home and the only team to get the better of them in front of their own crowd was the Storm in round one.
With one betting agency already paying out on a Sea Eagles minor premiership, Manly fans will be breathing a sigh of relief that it wasn't a jinx waiting to happen.
The statistics columns suggested it was an even contest, and it was, but Manly's plethora of backline superstars ground out the win with the formula that has served them so well in years gone by.
Only twice in 20 years have Brisbane beaten Manly at Brookvale, and when Corey Parker's first kick went out on the full, it looked like a foregone conclusion history would repeat itself after the first touch of the game.
Three tackles later Daly Cherry-Evans ran across the line of defence, before dummying and dipping his head towards the line. Gerard Sutton gave it the green light, but video replays clearly showed the stand-in Queensland halfback had knocked on.
Twelve minutes in, Manly three quarter Jamie Lyon crashed over on the right edge after Brett Stewart's pass gave him ample space, but it was nothing more than poor defending from Dale Copley.
During the week Broncos coach Anthony Griffin said he wanted his players to not give up starts like they have done in recent weeks against the Storm and the Warriors, but it was Brisbane's poor last tackle options that hampered any chance of gaining an early ascendancy.
Manly had a chance to draw more than a converted try in front, but Jamie Lyon bottled a certain four-pointer in the 22nd minute in hilarious circumstances.
Cherry-Evans made a break through the middle of the field and kicked ahead for Lyon to run onto it, but instead of re-gathering the ball just before the tryline, Lyon's kneed the ball over the dead ball line like a bullet straight drive in a T20.
10 minutes later Brisbane drew level courtesy of a diving effort on the left wing by Jack Reed, who somehow snaffled up a Daniel Vidot offload from a Ben Hunt cross-field kick.
Both teams lost star centres in the first half as Justin Hodges (hamstring) and Steve Matai (concussion) disappeared down the tunnel, but the latter returned for the second half.
Whether it was a sense of panic or just taking poor options in general, the frenetic pace of the game coerced players from both sides to take the attacking option on most occasions, which resulted in copious errors in the other team's opposite 20 metres.
Peta Hiku's try in the right corner helped Manly draw ahead 8-4 thanks largely to some hot potato passing from the Sea Eagles.
Jamie Lyon gained control of the ball after an incredible four offloads, before orchestrating a perfectly weighted grubber into the hands of the 21-year-old winger.
The win was sealed 12 minutes from full time when Kieran Foran, who is in career-best form, made a break down the middle, before passing to Brett Stewart on the inside, who notched up his sixth try in his last six matches at Brookvale Oval.
Manly Sea Eagles 16 (P Hiku J Lyon B Stewart tries J Lyon 2 goals) Brisbane Broncos 4 (J Reed try) at Brookvale Oval. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Alan Shortall. Crowd: 12,873
Sydney Morning Herald