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Ruthless Manly destroy Raiders

Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans masterminded a Sea Eagles onslaught against the Raiders at Brookvale Oval. Credit: Grant Trouville. Copyright: NRL Photos
The Raiders simply had no answers to a white-hot Manly side that exploded out of the blocks at Brookvale Oval on Sunday, notching seven converted tries in just over half an hour of play to blow Canberra off the park before closing the match out 54-18.

The 8817 fans who braved the damp conditions were treated to an attacking masterclass from Sea Eagles halfback and Kangaroos utility incumbent Daly Cherry-Evans, who was devastating in his return from a week off with injury, having a hand in almost all his side's nine tries.

Debutant playmaker Jack Littlejohn looked right at home with a clinical 40/20 and some high quality touches and winger Peta Hiku notched a first half hat-trick on his way to four for the afternoon.

The first of those came in the second minute after a Jamie Lyon grubber down a short right-side troubled Raiders fullback Anthony Milford, who had to play and was bundled into touch to put Manly on the attack. Cherry-Evans floated a pinpoint cut-out pass over decoy runner Glenn Stewart and Lyon put Hiku into space. Lyon slotted the first of several sideline conversions.

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He scored himself when Glenn Stewart produced a pass most five-eighths would be happy with to put Cherry-Evans into space and with an array of support runners to choose from he drew Milford and put Lyon over under the posts.

When new Rabbitohs signing Stewart went off early with an ankle injury, Jamie Buhrer ran straight through a gap off a Cherry-Evans short ball and drew the fullback to put support runner Brenton Lawrence over.

Manly continued to cut the Raiders apart through the middle and out wide, with a Steve Matai line break in the 11th minute almost leading to points, but their next score followed a precision Littlejohn 40/20, which he then backed up with a great inside ball near the posts to send Anthony Watmough crashing over for a 24-0 lead after 15 minutes.

Hiku got his second in the 24th minute when the defence rushed up on Cherry-Evans, who did well to get a quick ball to Lyon, whose classy bat-on to Hiku allowed the winger to steamroll Milford one-on-one to score in the corner.

In-form fullback and Brookvale specialist Brett Stewart finally added a 2014 try to his 10 try assists just before the half-hour mark, when he backed up Cherry-Evans who himself did well to follow up some quality work from Justin Horo and Littlejohn. A series of short passes close to the line proved too tough for the Raiders to shut down.

Hiku then brought up his hat-trick, showing great desperation to beat Milford to a short Cherry-Evans grubber in the 32nd minute. Lyon booted another sideline conversion to keep his perfect record intact, converting all seven first half tries.

The only bright spot in a dismal opening 40 for Canberra came against the run of play, when centre Matt Allwood rushed up on Brett Stewart to knock the ball free, popping it into Reece Robinson's arms for the winger to streak 70 metres and make it 42-4 at half-time.

Glenn Stewart returned to the field around 10 minutes after half-time, having shaken off an ankle complaint, but may have wished he didn't. He passed an intercept straight to Jarrod Croker with his first touch back, allowing the centre to race the length of the field for Canberra's second try and a 42-10 scoreline.

Normal service was resumed when Hiku scored his fourth, as he found himself on the end of a classic Manly right-side shift, with Glenn Stewart providing great service for his brother Brett's quick catch-and pass allowing the classy Kiwi back to find Canberra short.

With Lyon having left the field for the afternoon nursing a knee, Matai took over the kicking duties but it made little difference as he slotted the tricky conversion from the touchline.

The next try was the day's most outrageous – Brett Stewart cleaned up a Terry Campese chip kick on the fly and put Cherry-Evans away on the right, before he kicked back across field for Jesse Sene-Lefao. He toed it ahead under pressure from Canberra's chasers and it hit the post, with Jorge Taufua the only man on hand to clean up. Matai slotted the far easier effort to make it 54-10.

As the match tailed off, the Raiders clawed back two consolation tries to Jack Wighton, who cleaned up a Terry Campese cross-field kick, and Josh McCrone, backing up an unlikely Dave Shillington line break off a quality Brett White short ball. Yet it would do little to brighten the long bus trip back to the nation's capital.

Manly Sea Eagles 54 (Hiku 4, Lyon, Lawrence, Watmough, B Stewart, Taufua tries; Lyon 7, Matai 2 goals) defeated Canberra Raiders 18 (Robinson, Croker, Wighton, McCrone tries; Croker goal) at Brookvale Oval. Crowd: 8817.

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