Manly coach Geoff Toovey has described Sunday’s grinding 22-12 win over the Warriors as their best yet this season and "of the highest quality."
Coming up against a New Zealand side who were dealt a blow just before kick off with the withdrawal of star playmaker Shaun Johnson and experienced back-rower Feleti Mateo, Manly were staunch when backed up against their own tryline.
“I thought it was one of our best defensive efforts this year,” Toovey said post-game.
“Our defence was of the highest quality I thought. Our attack was a bit staggered, but you would expect that after doing all that defence.
“There were big periods [of defence] in the first half – four penalties in a row to start the first half – that took the juice out of us and then the second half was the same thing.
“I hate to signal anyone out on this day, [but] I thought our forwards did a fantastic job.
“[The Warriors] are a very physical and skilful pack and they got us a few times going backwards. But our blokes just hung in there, I was particularly proud of the forwards.”
The Sea Eagles had to endure an opening 15 minutes of dominance by the Warriors, as the home side bossed possession off the back of a penalty count which sat 5-2 in their favour.
Blockbusting centre Konrad Hurrell in particular came out firing, scoring the opening try on two minutes and causing plenty of headaches with his hits on both sides of the ball.
But Toovey said that start was always to be expected, and was impressed with his side’s resilience which saw them deny several attacking raids and take advantage of their own chances to lead 10-6 at the break.
“We have been watching the Warriors the past month and they have been starting really fast and well,” said Toovey.
“I think they missed a bit of direction with Shaun Johnson being out and maybe Feleti Mateo off the bench too.
“They lacked a little creativity losing those two quality players, but they are a tough-physical side and they really took it to us today.”
Coming off a week full of off-field reports that the club was in turmoil, Toovey believed the performance showed the professionalism of his side.
“There has been a lot of speculation about stuff but we are a professional club,” he said.
“We are getting on with things and are sorting things out.
“Let’s not believe that those problems are as big as reported in any of the media.
“They are professional players in the sense that they know their trade and love their football and are going to put 100% in every time they play.”
For the Warriors, the loss condemned them to consecutive defeats for the first time since round 7, momentarily kicking them out of the top eight.
The club now faces a difficult trip to Canberra next week, a city where they haven’t won since 2001, with a win crucial to their hopes of staying in touch with the 8.