After a patchy start, the Sea Eagles pulled it together to run down the Bulldogs at Brookvale Oval. The Sea Eagles scored 30 straight points to come from 10-0 down early and claim their fourth win of the season.
Fullback Stewart was forced from the field with a head injury in the 30th minute, but returned in the second half to put the Sea Eagles in front for the first time with his 45th try in 46 games at Brookvale.
The Bulldogs had led 10-0 after 15 minutes, and were still well in the contest at 10-10 at the break.
But they were made to look second rate for much of the second half as Manly skipped out for a 30-10 lead before the visitors scored two consolation tries in skipper Andrew Ryan’s 200th game.
Matt Orford, who set up Stewart’s try with a pin-point kick, again pulled the strings for the home side in a timely performance ahead of the announcement of the NSW City-Country teams.
Orford is facing stiff opposition from Sydney Roosters youngster Mitchell Pearce and Brisbane’s Peter Wallace for the City Origin No.7 jumper.
Stewart’s final 35 minutes was also strong – after a largely unhappy opening 30 – but will still likely not be enough to keep his Australian fullback spot ahead of Melbourne’s Billy Slater when the Kangaroos’ Centenary Test team is named this weekend to play New Zealand.
Steve Bell scored his first try of the season to level the game at 10-10 late in the first half, with Sea Eagles forwards Glenn Stewart, Glenn Hall, and Adam Cuthbertson also bagging four-pointers.
Bulldogs winger Heka Nanai opened the scoring in the 10th minute, with Sonny Bill Williams giving the visitors a surprise 10-0 lead soon after.
The Dogs let Manly back into the game with a series of errors, and after they dominated the opening 15 minutes, rarely troubled the Manly tryline for the next hour.
Dogs centre Tim Winitana eventually claimed a late consolation try seven minutes from fulltime before fullback Brent Crisp, a 21-year-old from Western Australia who reportedly ditched a burgeoning AFL career to pursue rugby league, scored perhaps the try of the game.
Crisp, who replaced in-form fullback Luke Patten (back) before kick-off, leapt high over Manly winger Michael Bani to claim a cross-field kick and then plant the ball with his feet just in play.
He also booted three from four conversions in a memorable debut.
Dogs hooker Hughes may come under scrutiny by the NRL match review committee on Monday for a late shot on Orford while kicking for Stewart’s try.