Manly avoid another collapse, see off late Storm surge

Scott Bailey |

The Sea Eagles have enjoyed a four-tries-to-three win over rivals Melbourne at Brookvale Oval.
The Sea Eagles have enjoyed a four-tries-to-three win over rivals Melbourne at Brookvale Oval.

Manly have defied their unwanted status as the NRL’s kings of capitulation to hold on for a nerve-wracking 26-20 win over bitter old rivals Melbourne.

After surrendering leads of 12, 14, 16 and 20 already this year, the Sea Eagles looked at risk of suffering the same fate again on Friday night at Brookvale.

But this time they were able to hang on, gutsing out 14 straight tackles on their line in the final three minutes to claim victory and move back into the NRL’s top eight.

“After three losses, you don’t really care what it looks like. You just want to get the win,” captain Daly Cherry-Evans said.

“We’re all pretty aware of three weeks in a row losing close games. You’re all aware of it.

“So when the 12-point lead goes to six, it was just leaning on the lessons we learnt in the previous weeks. That’s what we did tonight.”

The win marked a happy debut for teenager Lehi Hopoate, who threw the last pass for a late Tommy Talau try that gave Manly a 26-14 advantage with 10 minutes left.

At that point, the hosts looked as if they had done enough to win after previously leading 12-0 in the first half and 18-6 early in the second.

Luke Brooks was looking good in attack on Manly’s left edge and put Ben Trbojevic over for one try, while Cherry-Evans sent Jake Trbojevic over for another.

Hopoate also continued to play with confidence, poking his nose through on several jinking runs and making no errors under the high ball.

But time and time again the Storm refused to go away.

Eliesa Katoa put them on the board just before halftime when he ran down a Jahrome Hughes grubberkick and make it 12-6.

The Storm briefly got back to 18-14 in the second half when Sua Fa’alogo put Nick Meaney over.

And when Jahrome Hughes combined with Tyran Wishart to make it 26-20 with five minutes left, another Manly collapse looked likely.

But this time they were able to hold on defensively, with winger Raymond Tuaimalo Vaega pulling off two crucial tackles and the Sea Eagles refusing to offer a gap.

It allowed Manly to add Melbourne to a list of their 2024 scalps, that also includes fellow premiership heavyweights Penrith and the Sydney Roosters.

“We’ve been in every game. We’ve had five losses but I think it’s all up by a combined 23 points,” coach Anthony Seibold said. 

“That’s probably the frustrating thing for the players and coaching staff.

“I know we’ve got a really good footy team here, and I think we’ve shown that. Our challenge and opportunity is to do that for longer periods in games.

Jake Trbojevic.
Jake Trbojevic crashes over for Manly in the home win over the Storm. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

Haumole Olakau’atu had some powerful runs early in his last audition for a NSW State of Origin debut, but was subsequently quiet on Manly’s right edge. 

Taniela Paseka also made a last-gasp push for a Blues jersey, while Jake Trbojevic will almost certainly be there for NSW on June 5.

Defeat aside, Melbourne’s one concern will be a calf injury for winger Will Warbrick, who limped from the field in the second half and did not return.

“Our start to both halves was poor, especially to start the game,” coach Craig Bellamy said. 

“We went 25 minutes and we completed not even 50 per cent, so that put a lot of pressure. 

“You can’t start games like that and expect to win them at this level.”

AAP