Facing a Storm side coming off a loss to Newcastle, the task was always going to be a tough one and the Sea Eagles hung in for long periods in tough weather conditions to secure their victory.
The Storm looked ‘up’ for the game, and lead for the majority of the match despite running into a strong gale force wind in the first half.
Leading by 4 points midway through the second term, the Storm may have been guilty of ‘coasting’ at times – certainly switching off a little and not looking like the killer team they did in past seasons.
With the wind continuing to play havoc, an attacking Jamie Lyon kick bounced horribly for the Storm defence – and the Sea Eagles centre swarmed on the bouncing ball to give his side a 2 point lead.
Cameron Smith and Billy Slater clicked into gear and both worked hard to spark something in the dying periods, by the Manly defence was brilliant at times. Scrambling sensationally, the Sea Eagles thwarted raid after raid. At one stage, Billy Slater broke into the back field at full back with 20m left and was somehow cut down in a last ditch tackle as the Manly defence refused to budge.
Then Cooper Cronk carried 4 Manly defenders near 6m to get over the try line, only to drop the ball as he attempted to force it.
It wasn’t to be for the Storm, the out of sorts Grand Finalists remaining on 29 points and looking very fragile and the Sea Eagles rocketing back into the Top 8 in 5th spot and gaining even more confidence.
Titans v Cronulla:
Surprisingly down on the scoreboard 6-0 in the opening period of the clash, favourites the Titans recovered to nudge ahead 14-6 at the break.
Early, it was a really enthusiastic Ricky Stuart coach side – with the Sharks impressing their coach, the passionate Stuart fist pumping on the sideline as things went their way.
For the Titans, they begun to ensure it would beÂ no-contest as classy second rower Anthony Laffranchi bullocked over the chalk off a handy Scott Prince just prior to the 1 hour mark in the clash. The touchdown making it 20-6 and any chance of a Cronulla miracle was long gone.
Some positives could be taken away for the Shire side however, with rookie back Blake Ferguson getting over in the 72nd minute. The away side remaining committed until the final whistle which would have pleased coach and supporters.
Gold Coast veteran Mat Rogers marked a milestone, with his touchdown today making it his 100th try since debuting for Cronulla some 14 years ago.
The Gold Coast side were also knocked back on 3 occasions by the officials with former Storm forward Sam Tagataese, called back in the second half after a 40-metre run.
Halfback Scott Prince’s flat pass however was deemed forward much to the dislike of a a majority of the 13,714 fans who roared their disapproval.
Titans centre Esi Tonga was forced from the field in the second half with a shoulder or arm injury and could be in doubt for the heavyweight showdown with a desperate Manly.
Cronulla’s other try was scored by lock Paul Gallen who chased down halfback Scott Porter’s sixth minute grubber for a soft try.
Warriors v Raiders:
Out of form NZ Warriors were out to impress at home today, needing a win badly for next years confidence and to keep the doubters at bay over coach Ivan Cleary.
It was going well early, with the Warriors going to the break 16-10 in the lead despite giving away two poor tries to Raiders Josh McCrone and Jarrod Croker.
NZ Warriors man Heremaia launched the home side into action prior to the 10 minute mark, by making a good line break to position Lance Hohaia for the try.
Only a few minutes later, Heremaia was at it again – this time for himself. Launching out of dummy half as the Warriors came out of the blocks fast to earn a 12-0 advantage.
The Raiders hit back when McCrone strolled through a big hole in the Warriors defensive line in the 27th minute then Croker stretched over the line after Warriors errors enabled Canberra to surge on to attack.
Given their dominance the Warriors should not have found their lead slashed to 12-10, particularly not when they butchered two near-certain tries because of sloppy passing.
But Simon Mannering edged them further clear shortly before the halftime break when Canberra were caught short on the left flank after conceding a repeat set in their own 22.
The Warriors scored first after the interval too, as centre Jerome Ropati added their fourth try in the 52nd minute when he leapt high to haul in a bomb from standoff Joel Moon before scampering to the line.
Ahead 22-10 entering the final quarter many would consider the match safe for the Warriors, but it remained a nervous period for those who have watched the side implode on a number of occasions this year.
But with regular captain Price on deck again after an injury-enforced layoff, the Warriors did not flinch, and the game was made safe with 19min remaining by Hohaia.
The utility showed exemplary handling for his second try as he latched on to a nicely floated kick by halfback Stacey Jones which drifted between the uprights.
Moon then completed a fine performance by nabbing a deserved try just minutes later when he sold a dummy and darted between two defenders.
Canberra scored late consolation tries to Croker and Joel Thompson as the minutes ticked down but they were never in a position to end a losing streak in Auckland which stretches back to 2001.
Visiting coach David Furner said his side’s recent standards dropped today.
“We’ve challenged each week in last six weeks and this was a good challenge,” he said.
“We obviously didn’t come up to that challenge and against a Warriors side that was desperate we missed a couple of chances.
“We spoke about their stars. They’ve got some good-sized men who can offload and I don’t think we handled that quite well.”
The Warriors have two matches remaining, away to Canterbury in Sydney next Sunday ahead of a home game against Melbourne Storm.