Manly's unfancied forward pack, including rookie Jesse Sene-Lefao, got the job done against a monster Souths pack. Copyright: Robb Cox/NRL Photos.

Manly coach Geoff Toovey has praised a gutsy defensive effort by a side short on troops following a narrow and hard-fought win over competition favourites South Sydney at Gosford on Friday night.

With his side given little chance by many prior to the game due to injuries to key players like Brett Stewart, and even more so when Glenn Stewart was ruled out on the day of the game, Toovey said they had enjoyed their underdog status.

"Yeah it was [a gutsy effort], particularly with the late withdrawal of Glenn Stewart this afternoon. Also because of last week [a golden point loss to Melbourne], that was probably the game that got away."

Toovey said the side had bounced back well from that disappointment of blowing a 20-point lead against Melbourne, praising the defence of his new-look forward pack.

"It was good to be the underdog today. These players really enjoyed that tag and they used it to their advantage today," he said.

Hooker Matt Ballin, who made a match-high 56 tackles, agreed, saying the side thrives when its backs are to the wall.

"We love a challenge and those two guys [the Stewart brothers] are a massive part of our team attacking-wise and defensively as well," Ballin said.

"I thought [stand-in fullback] Peta Hiku did a great job and Jamie Buhrer on our right edge instead of Gifty [Glenn Stewart] tonight did an excellent job there as well. There's a lot of pride in our team no matter what but when there's adversity that's what we like to play."

And while it wasn't a classic Toovey post-match spray, the Manly coach did raise some early concerns about the officiating.

"I don't want to get into it too much but that's two weeks in a row where people have dropped the ball, our captain's come from 30 metres away to try and get the referees to do something and it goes unnoticed, I don't understand," he said.

"It's easy for me to say, I'm up in the box looking down, I do have some trouble with some of the interpretations and consistency but it is Round 2 and we're all teething still."