A disappointed Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey said his side got complacent after "doing it easy" in the first half of their 22-12 loss to Parramatta on Friday night.
After a loud and partisan home crowd watched their side roar back from 12-0 down at half time to run out 22-12 winners in a hugely dominant second half, Toovey said his side could have been up by 18 or 20 points.
"Pretty disappointed. I thought the boys were doing it too easy in the first half, it probably could have been 18 or 20 points up," Toovey said.
"We came out in the second half and played accordingly. Fifty-three per cent completions in the second half – we just thought it was going to happen. A few things went Parramatta's way and all of a sudden they're back in the game."
He said the side had expected the Eels to come out strongly in the second half, but he hadn't expected his own side to be so lacklustre – finishing several sets poorly, losing the ruck battle and making double the number of errors (six) as they did in the first 40.
He said it shouldn't matter which side had more to play for, and said the fact the Eels were more desperate and playing for the season was no excuse for being off the pace.
"We played pretty well the first half, the scoreline could have been greater that it was but we came out in the second half, the first set where we just got a kick away, that was our attitude the whole second half. A couple of lucky things went their way and all of a sudden they're back in the match.
"Their confidence rises, their enthusiasm rises and that's the way it went."
Manly captain Jamie Lyon agreed momentum was a factor his side should have controlled better.
"It was frustrating. Like ‘Tooves’ said we kept dropping the ball, they dominated the ruck. We played pretty well in the first half so it was a complete contrast but they played well so full credit for them.
"There were a couple of plays that got them on a roll. We've got to realise that and try and change it. We didn't do that tonight and they won the second half of the match."
Asked about the Eels' finals credentials, Toovey said with the closeness of the competition, any side in contention can be a threat on their day.
"It's been such a close competition all year, I think it's been the closest we've seen for many, many years – if not decades. Any team can win on the day, that's the important thing of getting to the eight firstly.
"You put two or three games together and you're in the grand final, that’s all you have to do is get there. That's what the benefit is finishing in the top four, at least you get a second chance. But we need to play better than we did in the second half."