Manly have moved to the outright lead at the top of the NRL ladder with a 24-16 win over Sydney Roosters at Brookvale Oval on Friday night.
In a gripping grand-final rematch, a Peta Hiku try in the 78th minute sealed the win for the home side, with Jamie Lyon’s conversion putting the Sea Eagles out to an unassailable eight-point lead.
After trailing 10-0 early, the Roosters fought their way back into the contest and should have tied the scores at 18-all in the 68th minute after a Mitchell Pearce try, but James Maloney pushed the very gettable conversion wide.
A desperate Roosters attempted a short drop-out minutes from time, which Manly gathered before Hiku crossed for his second of the night.
Brett Stewart was instrumental in the win, Manly’s 10th of the season, before a crowd 17,155, which puts them two points clear of Penrith who travel to Auckland on Sunday to meet the Warriors.
Manly burst out to an early 10-0 lead after 18 minutes following two great sweeping backline plays created tries for Hiku in the 14th minute and Jorge Taufua four minutes later
In a high-quality game, a Sonny Bill Williams short ball put Shaun Kenny-Dowall over in the 23rd minute.
A converted try to Boyd Cordner, in just his second his second touch after six weeks out with an ankle injury, from a Mitchell Pearce short ball put the Roosters ahead, in the 25th minute after James Maloney’s conversion.
A Jamie Lyon penalty goal on the stroke on halftime brought a 12-all scoreline at the break.
A superb set play put Brett Stewart over in the 52nd minute to give Manly an 18-12, lead before a Frank Paul Nuuausala break 12 minutes from fulltime put Pearce in the clear.
The Roosters halfback outsprinted Stewart to score.
But Maloney’s miss proved costly, the Roosters forced to play catch-up football before Hiku’s final try.
Manly interchange forward James Hasson left the field with concussion in the 34th minute and didn’t return.
Manly coach Geoff Toovey said his side’s goal line defence early in the second half paved the way for the win.
“It was gutsy, it was tough,” he said.
“After halftime we made an error off the kick off and they were camped down our end for probably 10 minutes. I thought it was really taxing on us to keep them at bay and a very resilient effort from the forwards in particular to keep the Roosters at bay.”
Roosters coach Trent Robinson believed his side’s poor execution cost them victory.
“We certainly had enough chances in that second half,” he said.
“We created enough field position but poor execution cost us.
“In quite a few sets on their line we turned over quite a lot of ball, not getting to the end of our sets well enough.
“I think we were 56 per cent (completion) in the second half.
“You don’t win a game with that kind of execution.
“We were not patient enough.”