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Tough wins set up Manly season

Manly was brutal in defence last Friday, as Roosters prop Sam Moa found out, and believe a string of tough games to start the season will hold them in good stead. Copyright: Col Whelan/NRL Photos Credit: Col Whelan/NRL Photos Copyright: Col Whelan/NRL Photos
Manly Sea Eagles stars are hoping three supremely hard-fought wins and a heartbreaking golden point loss will stand them in good stead for the rest of the season.

The side was put through their paces in sweltering heat at Narrabeen on Tuesday morning and spent the last half hour of the session in an opposed match, where one side would drop the ball out and the other had a set of touch footy to try and earn a field goal, then the sides would reverse roles.

It started out scrappy but finished with a number of efforts sailing through the posts, with the players celebrating like they'd won a golden point NRL match after each successful shot.

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The four close games experienced by Manly – and plenty of other close finishes this season by other clubs – have placed extra emphasis on one-pointers.

In last week's grand final rematch against the defending premiers, with Manly clinging desperately to a six-point lead, both halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and centre Steve Matai missed drop goal attempts but a late Jamie Lyon penalty meant they didn't cost the side on that occasion.

"Yeah it does [help to win those grinding games]," Matai told reporters on Tuesday, ahead of Sunday’s clash against the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval.

"We've had four tough games that have gone right down to the wire. It's good that we've got that experience – we've been through those tough games before. But hopefully this week we can have a much easier game!”

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Prop Jason King, who missed the Roosters clash through suspension but returns for the Tigers game, said last Friday’s win and the manner in which it came were huge positives.

"It was really pleasing, I thought we played some really tough grinding football. We did identify some areas we need to improve and we've been working on them this week and hopefully we'll go out and put in an even better performance against the Tigers on Sunday," King said.

Despite not wanting to get drawn into talk of a grand final rematch before last week's game, several Manly players also expressed their satisfaction with their 8-0 win in Round 4.

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"There was not a lot said before the game about beating the Roosters or anything about last year but it was, personally, I really wanted to beat them," prop Brenton Lawrence said.

"It was just a sense of fulfilment after ... we walked into the sheds happy that we'd done a job there.

"We didn't talk about it at all [prior to the game], I think every man had his own mindset going into the game but we didn't talk about how they'd beaten us last year, I think it was blatantly obvious.

"No-one was too concerned about the games during the season – they beat us in the grand final so that gave a little bit of extra passion for me."

Former Roosters back-rower Tom Symonds played his first game of the year in Round 4 on his return from a back injury and said it was good to finally get a win against the Tri-colours after four losses last year.

"Obviously last year we didn't come up with [a win against the Roosters] so one of the things to do was get one against the old club," Symonds said.

"It was a tough match out there at Allianz Stadium and there was only one try scored, it was a bit like the semi last year but we got the chocolates this time so it was good."

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