The Sea Eagles defeated the Wests Tigers 22-18 at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford in Round 2 last season.
The Tigers looked the stronger of the sides in the early exchanges, Adam Blair scoring in the 25th minute off a nicely timed left-side raid for a 6-nil advantage. A Benji Marshall penalty goal extended the lead to eight points, before a Jamie Lyon penalty saw the teams head to halftime with the gold and blacks ahead 8-2.
It was a different story altogether immediately after the break though, with Daly Cherry-Evans in particular seizing control for the Sea Eagles. First he showed wonderful skill to gift co-captain Jason King passage to the try line (42nd minute), before another Lyon penalty goal (45th minute) saw Manly ahead 10-8.
Cherry-Evans then bamboozled the Tigers’ left edge defence with a series of dummies to score a stunning 70-metre solo try; he fooled opposition centre Chris Lawrence 30 metres out from the Manly try line then sprinted downfield before similarly hoodwinking fullback Tim Moltzen to cross untouched.
That made it 16-8 and when Tony Williams steamrolled over the top of Robbie Farah to score from 10 metres out in the 58th minute to make it 22-8, the competition points looked safely in the bag.
However, two late tries to the Tigers, the first to Beau Ryan off a Benji Marshall grubber (58th minute) and then to Joel Reddy cleaning up a scrappy ‘Hail Mary’ play on the left edge (76th minute) gave the Manly fans a few nerves.
The stats heavily favoured the Sea Eagles: they completed 32 sets compared to the Tigers’ 24 and dominated field position with a kicking game that probed 730 metres compared to the opposition’s 625 metres.
Cherry-Evans finished with a try, nine-tackle busts, a line-break, try assist and line-break assist, while Williams banked a try and five tackle busts.
The Tigers were best served by Marshall (two try assists) and Chris Lawrence (a try and a try assist).