Manly has held their position at the head of the NRL table with a cruisy 28-12 victory over Newcastle in Saturday night’s round 16 NRL clash at Bluetongue stadium in Gosford.
In the night’s other match, South Sydney produced the second-biggest comeback in history from 28-4 down to defeat North Queensland 29-28 at Dairy Farmers Stadium in Townsville.
Trailing by 24 points in the 51st minute, the Rabbitohs piled on three tries in eight minutes to pull the margin back to a converted try with 20 minutes remaining, with the returning Craig Wing playing a crucial role in the fight-back.
Jason Taylor’s side then drew level via a Luke Capewell try five minutes from time, before young half-back Chris Sandow coolly slotted the match-winning field goal with just 30 seconds remaining.
The Cowboys had a late chance to send the match to golden point extra time but an Anthony Watts field goal was charged down by the Rabbitohs defence, handing Souths its third win on the trot.
Sea Eagles roll on
In Gosford, Manly took advantage of a Newcastle side missing Danny Buderus, Kurt Gidley and Ben Cross to Origin in a controlled performance that sees them join the Roosters on 24 points at the top of the ladder.
Leading 10-8 at the break, the Sea Eagles kicked clear with three tries in 15 minutes to kill off any chance of a Knights upset.
With the game in the balance after the break, centre Steve Matai received the ball on the Newcastle 40-metre line before jinking and fending his way past three Knights defenders and linking up with a flying Anthony Watmough to put the big second-rower in under the sticks.
Orford’s conversion put the Sea Eagles out 16-8 in the 50th minute and from there the home side was never threatened.
Manly put on two more tries through Jamie Lyon and Steve Bell to extend the margin against the Knights, who felt the loss of their Origin stars in the latter stages of the match despite a late consolation try to winger James McManus.
Both sides crossed for two tries in the first half, with Matt Orford landing one conversion from two attempts for the Sea Eagles and Wes Naiqama spraying his shots wide for the visitors.
Manly opened up a 6-0 lead after just five minutes through a David Williams try, before the Knights ran in for the next two four-pointers through Cooper Vuna and McManus.
But Manly hit back with a bullocking try to Matai nine minutes from the break to hold the advantage at the break.
Manly 28 (D Williams, S Matai, A Watmough, J Lyon, S Bell tries; M Orford 4 conversions)
Newcastle 12 (J McManus 2, C Vuna tries)
South Sydney 29 (R Asotasi, F Talanoa, C Wing, B Champion, L Capewell tries; I Luke 4 conversions; C Sandow field goal)
North Queensland 28 (A Graham 2, R Cashmere, J Williams, B Harris tries; J Williams 4 conversions)