Manly had a player end up in hospital but it is the New Zealand Warriors who are on life support after lightning struck twice to potentially cause irreparable damage to their NRL title hopes in Perth.
The Warriors plumbed new depths on Saturday night when, for a second successive week, an imposing first half lead was squandered as premiers Manly joined Newcastle in exposing the New Zealander's tactical and psychological deficiencies.
Three tries in the last dozen minutes enabled the error-prone Sea Eagles to surge to a 24-22 victory - their sixth in a row against a Warriors side now in grave danger of missing the finals series.
They approached round 21 in ninth place and will finish it in 12th, just two points outside the top eight although the gulf in class and composure appears considerable between the contenders and last year's beaten grand finalists.
At Mt Smart the Warriors blew a 19-point advantage against the Knights; seven days later they led their nemesis 18-0 after 39 minutes and 22-6 early in the second spell - after Manu Vatuvei's 99th career touchdown - before conceding four unanswered tries including a brace to Daly Cherry-Evans.
The Manly halfback twice profited from audacious chips by fellow playmaker Kieran Foran who set up a grandstand finish when fellow Kiwi international Steve Matai put him over with 12 minutes remaining.
Warriors coach Brian McClennan described the side's third successive defeat as “heartbreaking”.
“That's the harshest lesson, that one, and we've had some harsh lessons this year,” he said.
McClennan claimed Kangaroos and NSW representative Tony Williams stamped on Konrad Hurrell's already fragile ankle. He limped off in the 15th minute, but the Warriors were also guilty of shooting themselves in the foot.
Sending Hurrell back on in the second half despite his discomfort backfired when he was exposed defensively by Matai as Manly got on a roll, although McClennan argued the try-scoring sensation's return was justified.
“We thought he was good to go but he's gone out there and copped another knock. That put him back,” he said.
McClennan blamed his side's passivity for a defeat that could prove fatal with just five games left in the regular season.
The Warriors next assignment is at home on Sunday against a Cronulla on the slide after their losing streak extended to three when they conceded a last minute try to Michael Jennings before Penrith won 21-20 in golden point on Saturday night. Manly's co-captain Jason King was taken to hospital for scans after suffering a rib injury and is in doubt for this weekend's trip to North Queensland.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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