The Sea Eagles have kept alive their hopes of playing finals footy after ending South Sydney's season with a 20-12 win at Allianz Stadium. Manly shot out to an 18-0 lead at half-time before the Rabbitohs stormed back into contention, only to have their momentum stalled.
Opinion divided on no-try decision
South Sydney Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire is adamant winger Joe Burgess should have been awarded a try that could have levelled the scores with 20 minutes to play.
The Englishman looked to have scored his side's third try in the space of 13 minutes when he fought through the would-be tackle of Lewis Brown to slam the ball down one-handed.
The on-field referee sent it to the bunker as a try, but upon review, it was deemed Burgess had momentarily lost full control of the ball in the process of scoring.
"We made it hard [on ourselves] in the first half, [but] I think we achieved what we were after in the second half and got our completions up, but those sorts of things in the game are defining moments," Maguire said of the decision to overturn the try.
Rabbitohs skipper Sam Burgess was equally miffed by the decision, with South Sydney now out of contention for the finals for the first time since 2011.
"I thought it was a try, a dead-set try. I just don't know how they can get it wrong, I really don't," Burgess said.
The Sea Eagles saw it differently, however.
"When I saw it live, I thought it was a try," Jamie Buhrer told NRL.com.
"When I saw it in slow motion I saw separation, and I say that honestly. I thought it was a no try after seeing that, and I'm glad we got the decision right."
Manly's future in good hands
The rise and rise of Sea Eagles fullback Tom Trbojevic shows no signs of slowing down with the Manly No.1 once again playing a starring role on Monday night.
Trbojevic scored a try and ran for 196 metres in a performance that confirms his status as one of the game's future stars.
Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett is so impressed with what Tom and his older brother Jake have done for the club that he wants them and other Manly juniors to become the new faces of the Sea Eagles.
Manly have won two premierships since 2008 largely on the back of senior players Brett and Glenn Stewart, Jamie Lyon, Jason King and Anthony Watmough to name a few, and Barrett wants the next wave of talent to ensure the culture that was created nearly a decade ago is maintained.
"He's a terrific player, but he does the work too during the week," Barrett said when asked about his star fullback.
"He's a natural athlete, but he works hard as well; they all do. His brother is the same.
"I want them to take over the culture that these guys have had over the last 10 years. That’s their responsibility now as young players and Manly juniors that the culture that this club's had for a long time doesn't go away.
"Darcy Lussick is epitomising that at the moment, and the Trbojevic boys the same, [and] Jamie Buhrer has really stood up over the last month [as well]."
Injury ruins Goodwin's return
Rabbitohs centre Bryson Goodwin failed to return after half-time in his first game back from a broken forearm with fears he might have aggravated the injury.
The club's leading try scorer in 2016 hadn't played since the Round 14 loss to the Wests Tigers and appeared solid in the first forty minutes.
Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire seemed hopeful in the post-match press conference when asked about Goodwin's arm.
"He's a bit sore," Maguire said after the game." He came back from a broken arm and he trained really well at the back end of the week."
"We just need to assess how it is. He's sort of got a bit of a bump on the outside. He was pretty positive [in the sheds] so we'll see how he is throughout the week."
Set plays pay off
One of the most pleasing aspects of Manly's eight-point win was the execution of a couple of their set plays around the ruck.
It took just four minutes for the Sea Eagles to get on the board with Api Koroisau and Daly Cherry-Evans linking up in the middle of the field to send skipper Jamie Lyon over.
Another well-worked move later in the half saw the Sea Eagles halfback release Jamie Buhrer before the backrower turned it back inside for Tom Trbojevic to score.
Buhrer said there was nothing fluky about the plays, with the Sea Eagles identifying South Sydney's middle third as an area they could exploit.
"They’ve got such a big, powerful middle so it's important that we worked them over," Buhrer told NRL.com.
"It's exactly what teams want to do to us too. When you've got a big forward pack, you want to wear them out as best you can. They’ve got one of the biggest and strongest, so it was certainly a focus for us.
"For the most part I think we executed it well which is the most pleasing thing for us. We put a fair bit of time into that so to see it come off so early was really good. It's a satisfying feeling."
Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett was equally pleased with the way his side carried out the game plan.
"That's always nice because you look at a lot of video to come up with something like that. They executed it really well."
Tough night for Burgess
Aside from his involvement in the controversial no try ruling, Rabbitohs winger Joe Burgess had a night to forget.
The Englishman came up with four handling errors, including one inside three minutes that led to Manly's opening try.
Despite the poor start, Burgess finished with 160 metres and two line breaks in a performance that at times impressed Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire.
"He tries hard, Joe, and he's a really good kid," Maguire said.
"It was just a night where he unfortunately had the ball go down a few times. I was proud of the boys for just working after those sorts of things happen."
South Sydney skipper Sam Burgess elaborated on his coach's point, praising his teammates for their refusal to throw the towel in despite trailing 18-0 at half-time.
"I've really got to give my team a rap because we made it hard for ourselves in the first half," Burgess said.
"Regardless of the calls, we found our way back into the game so I'm really proud of the team for that. It's tough, but that's football. We've shown some great signs as a team, but unfortunately we're not getting the final result at the moment."