Manly hold off fast-finishing Storm
Manly have defeated the Melbourne Storm 24-22 at Brookvale Oval despite a strong comeback from the visitors, with an explosive eight-minute period from the Sea Eagles in the first half proving the difference.
The first-half burst saw Daly Cherry-Evans set up three tries, two of which were scored by crowd favourite Brett Stewart to make him the highest ever try-scorer at Brookvale Oval.
The Storm's late fightback put a scare through the 10,531-strong crowd but it was eventually quashed by a spirited Manly outfit that held onto the win despite failing to score in the second half.
It was an admirable victory for the Sea Eagles after a tumultuous week and a disappointing first-round showing against the Eels.
The turning point came at the half-hour mark when the referees controversially dismissed a try appeal from Storm winger Young Tonumaipea. Replays suggested the decision should have been referred upstairs but instead Manly tapped the ball at their own 20 and rolled downfield. By the end of the set Cherry-Evans put Tom Symonds through a gap, with the Manly second-rower linking up with Stewart who, in his 86th game at the ground, found the line for the 78th time at Brookvale.
The try gave the Sea Eagles a 12-6 lead and drew Stewart level with Steve Menzies for the most tries ever on Manly's home turf.
The hosts soon struck again as Cherry Evans took on the Storm line before dropping an exquisite grubber off the inside of his foot for Blake Leary to touch down.
Then in the 38th minute Cherry-Evans set up a third try in seven minutes as he accelerated around the outside of a sliding defence, sending Stewart clear to become the standalone highest ever try-scorer at the ground. That made it 24-6 at half-time, an advantage that would eventually be enough for Manly.
The Sea Eagles had opened the scoring with some beautiful work by Mateo in the 10th minute, with the ball-playing second-rower popping a terrific offload for late inclusion Jamie Buhrer, who sent Steve Matai in for the game's first points.
The Storm hit back in the 19th minute when a brilliant cut-out pass from Billy Slater sent winger Young Tonumaipea clear, with the young winger outracing Stewart to the corner. Cameron Smith's conversion squared things up at 6-all before the pivotal three-try passage by Manly.
Melbourne's fightback began when five-eighth Blake Green benefited from a defender slipping over in front of him to strike first blood in the second half, and it was well and truly on in the 66th minute as Mariki Koroibete sliced through the Manly defence off a kick return, with Will Chambers crossing in the ensuing play.
Just minutes later a thrilling finish was set up as Green crossed again for the Storm off a Manly penalty.
The last five minutes were end-to-end, with Manly valiantly holding on as the Storm knocked on in the final play.
Manly Sea Eagles 24 (Stewart 2, Matai, Leary tries, Lyon goals) defeated Melbourne Storm 22 (Tonumaipae, Green 2, Chambers tries) at Brookvale Oval. Crowd: 10,531.