MANLY have muscled up to take the honours in a physical contest with the Warriors 20-14 in Auckland today. The Sea Eagles getting home with a try to Brent Kite in the late stages, State of Origin hopeful Kite has a nervous wait after being put on report for a high shot during the tough match-up in NZ.
Ultimately it was the Warriors’ mistakes deep in their own territory finally proved decisive as they allowed the Eagles to nab 2 tries in the final 8 minutes.
The Sea Eagles have now won seven of their last eight matches and lead the competition on points difference.
Despite having most of the play in the first half, Manly were unable to prevent the Warriors scoring the first points after Manu Vatuvei ran 60 metres to a rousing cheer from the crowd of about 7000 after a Steve Price offload.
Vatuvei, playing in his first NRL game since he was sidelined in April, showed he had not lost any pace from his injured leg, but was later taken off the ground, in what may be a troubling sign for the big winger.
Although the Sea Eagles replied shortly after, the Warriors went into the break leading by two points (6-4) in a low-scoring half.
During the second half the weather turned dark and the lights were turned on, and both sides were denied tight chances in the slippery conditions.
Early in the second half the Warriors earlier luck ran out when another turnover gave the Sea Eagles the platform to attack and second rower Glenn Stewart went over.
The Warriors drew level at 10-10 minutes later when second rower Simon Mannering forced his way over.
With 14 minutes to go, they hit the front again when a Nathan Fien cross-kick was plucked out of the air by Kirk to score.
Still, another turnover in their own territory was punished by Manly, with hooker Matt Ballin scoring from dummy half, and Matt Orford adding the extras to edge the Sea Eagles in front 16-14.
Prop Brent Kite added the icing with Manly’s fourth try three minutes from time.
The loss will be all the more worrying for the Warriors as their squad was playing at almost full strength with the return from injury of Vatuvei, sidelined in April, and five-eighth Michael Witt.
It is the third loss in a row at home for the Warriors, where they looked strong earlier in the season.