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Warriors 26 def Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 24

REIGNING premiers Manly crashed to their second consecutive defeat to continue their horror start to the season thanks to a last-minute try to Warriors centre Jerome Ropati.

In what was surely the game of the season so far, the lead swapped hands four times with the home side leading 24-16 late in the game before two pieces of Stacey Jones brilliance saw the Warriors steal a dramatic late win.

The veteran halfback, making a comeback this season after 12 months in retirement, reduced Manly’s lead to four with a stunning chip-and-chase to send Brent Tate over before putting in the cross-field kick that ended in Ropati’s winner in the 80th minute.

It was the second comeback of the game for the Warriors, who trailed 10-0 early but incredibly managed to go to the half-time break six points up.

The Sea Eagles hit the ground running in the second half and looked set to run away with the game on the back of three unanswered tries before Jones showed his class.

Having beaten Parramatta in Round 1, the Warriors have confirmed pre-season predictions that they could be genuine title contenders, while Manly have plenty of soul-searching to do following Brett Stewart’s off-field discretions and their losing start to the 2009 season.

The Game Swung When… Stacey Jones injected himself into the game.

The veteran half was quiet after making his season debut late in the first half but showed his class when it mattered most by setting up two late tries to secure his side’s second win in as many games this season.

The first came from a brilliant chip-and-chase for Brent Tate to score and the second from a cross-field kick that ended with Ropati touching down out wide in the final minute.

Who Was Hot… Evergreen Warriors captain Steve Price was at his best in the first half, throwing to superb passes for tries as his side came back from a 10-0 deficit to lead 16-10 at the break.

It took a series of damaging runs from Sea Eagles forward Adam Cuthbertson – who scored one try and had a major hand in another – to turn the tide in his side’s favour in the second half before Stacey Jones stepped up to the plate late in the game.

Who Was Not… It was a tough day out for superstar Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei, who struggled in the heat and was overshadowed by speedy Manly flanker Michael Bani.

He was one of a number of players to run into handling trouble throughout the course of the afternoon.

Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… With the heat baring down, a number of players from both sides were guilty of some ridiculous decision making.

Those errors included:

  • Manly halfback Matt Orford taking a tap from a penalty when he should have been kicking for touch shortly before half-time;
  • Hooker Heath L’Estrange darting down the short side on the second tackle after a penalty when attacking the line, only to be bundled into touch;
  • The Warriors kicking out on the full straight after half-time;
  • Adam Cuthbertson trying to barge his way over from dummy-half on the last tackle with three Warriors defenders waiting; and
  • Warriors winger Denan Kemp being bundled into touch on the second tackle when his side desperately needed some possession in the second half.

Injuries… Andrew Siniula (Manly) – dislocated finger; Shane Rodney (Manly) – eye.

Refs Watch… There were some minor errors around the ruck by referees Shayne Hayne and Steve Lyons but nothing that impacted heavily on the result. More importantly, they allowed for a free-flowing and thrilling game of rugby league. Best & Fairest… 3 points – Steve Price (Warriors): Ran for 145 metres, led his side from the front and set up two tries with offloads in the first half as the Warriors came back from 10-0 down; 2 points – Stacey Jones (Warriors): Was quiet early on in his comeback game before exploding in the second half, setting up both of the Warriors’ two late tries and ultimately orchestrating their stunning win; 1 point – Adam Cuthbertson (Sea Eagles): Made a huge impact when he came onto the field, scoring a try and running for 110 metres.

Warriors 26 (B Tate 2, M Vatuvei, J Royal, J Ropati tries; D Kemp 3 goals) def Sea Eagles 24 (J Lyon 2, M Bani, A Suniula, A Cuthbertson tries; M Orford 2 goals) at Brookvale Oval. Crowd: 16,307.

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