Manly lift to beat Melbourne again
The Sea Eagles have made it two from two this season over arch rivals the Storm, recording just their second win of the year in Melbourne on Anzac Day.
It was the fourth straight contest between these two teams that was settled by less than four points as the visitors left AAMI Park as winners for the first time in their history.
Prior to the weekend the Storm and Sea Eagles were at opposite ends of the NRL ladder but on Saturday night you certainly would not have picked it.
Manly went into the game with the NRL's equal-worst defensive record but a gritty second half effort saw them keep Melbourne scoreless before David Williams snatched the match-winning try nine minutes from time.
Daly Cherry-Evans was at his mercurial best, providing the deciding hand in both Manly tries while young prop Jake Trbojevic led the way with a team-high 148 metres in wet conditions.
The visitors were handed a significant boost before kick-off with skipper Brett Stewart making his return from a two-week absence while Jorge Taufua was given his recall.
They would open the scoring inside six minutes with a penalty goal courtesy of David Williams and made a resilient start to the game, forcing Melbourne to kick from their own half in their opening four sets.
However from there the NRL's top side began to flex their muscles and they broke the resistance in the 17th minute.
The Storm capitalised off a Luke Burgess drop ball on his own 40-metre line, with a cross-field chain of passes that eventually landed in the hands of Marika Koroibete.
That was all the Storm's leading try scorer needed, with the winger sidestepping three defenders to cross the line for the sixth time this season.
The Sea Eagles looked far from a bottom team, digging in for 96 tackles inside the opening 20 minutes with the home side enjoying 63 per cent of possession in that time.
Prior to the half-hour mark the Silvertails saw Steve Matai head into the book with a high hit on Will Chambers, which sent his opposing number to the sidelines for a concussion test.
The game needed a spark and in the 31st minute Blake Green provided it as he broke through the guts of the Manly defence, drew a lonely Stewart before passing inside to Cooper Cronk who showed little effect from a mid-week flu to score under the posts.
Manly had a golden chance to hit back before the break when Daly Cherry-Evans struck a 40/20 kick.
But the purple wall has troubled many a team this season and it stood strong yet again, repelling consecutive sets on Melbourne's own line to take a 10-2 score line into the sheds.
That lead became all the more pivotal as the heavens opened above AAMI Park five minutes after the restart.
It was game on though with half an hour to play as Manly cut the margin to just two points. Three penalties in as many sets had Melbourne on their heels and Tom Symonds stood up to collect a Cherry-Evans pass and bulldoze over for his first try of the season.
Melbourne responded with three straight sets at the Manly end but failed to find a way through.
The Sea Eagles found themselves a man down inside the final 20 minutes when Jamie Buhrer left the field in the hands of the trainers and moments later Stewart also found himself on report for a high hit on Koroibete. The replay suggested the contact was accidental however it forced the Storm winger off the field for 10 minutes as he underwent a concussion test.
The visitors were given their chance to hit the front following a Tohu Harris penalty, and they did just that thanks to some Cherry-Evans brilliance.
The star halfback looped a pass that suddenly found David Williams in acres of space on the right edge to cross for the match-winner.
After being forced to watch from the sidelines the last couple of weeks, Saturday night's result was sweet salvation for stand-in Sea Eagles skipper Brett Stewart.
"I was very proud to lead them around today, it's been very hard the last couple of weeks on the sideline," Stewart said.
"We just needed to come down here and get a win and obviously take a little bit more leadership and I thought the older guys did that today.
"But we need to back it up every week, the good teams do that and if we can we are heading in the right direction."
Manly Sea Eagles 12 (Symonds, Williams tries; Williams 2 goals) defeated Melbourne Storm 10 (Koroibete, Cronk tries; Smith goal) at AAMI Park. Crowd: 13,948.