Walker stars as Manly edge Souths in trial
Manly have downed South Sydney 22-16 at Campbelltown Sports Stadium with several key players showing positive signs on the eve of the 2017 season proper.
On a steamy night in Campbelltown that saw kick-off pushed back to 8.00pm because of the Sydney heatwave, it was Manly that looked slightly sharper for most of the night, having named a stronger trial team than the Rabbitohs.
New recruit Blake Green marshalled the left side of the field with Daly Cherry-Evans on the right, indicating a more similar structure to that which the team adopted back when Kieran Foran was at the club, and Green also took an even share of the general play kicking.
Both had some nice kicks, with Green's cross-field kicks in particular causing headaches and Cherry-Evans' slicing short grubbers very dangerous.
It was right centre Dylan Walker who looked most impressive, nailing two sideline conversions in his three from four attempts and scoring one try with his blistering acceleration in broken play.
New Sea Eagles recruit Curtis Sironen played the first half and looked strong while young winger Brian Kelly staked his claim for an NRL berth with a few quality moments.
For the Rabbitohs, the good news included a powerful opening stint from prop George Burgess, whose 2016 was ruined by injury. Big-name recruit Robbie Farah had some nice darts from dummy half in his first hit-out for the club, playing the first half and coming close to scoring one try (only to lose the ball over the line in a strong tackle) and nearly setting one up with a good cut-out ball.
First points came from new Manly recruit Jarrad Kennedy in the 10th minute. Young winger Kelly did well to keep the ball alive inside the right touch line, flicking it back to Walker who showed his pace in jinking across field and setting up Kennedy next to the posts.
The next score came on the opposite side of the field when winger Jorge Taufua latched onto a nice Green cross field bomb on the back of a Souths error at their line. Taufua quickly passed back inside for centre Jono Wright to score. Walker's sideline conversion made it 12-0 at half time.
Walker showed his pace in burning three defenders to score shortly after half time though shanked the kickable conversion before Souths started to mount a comeback.
Back-up Souths half Luke Kelly was involved in two quick tries, both of which were made possible by Manly errors and penalties getting the Rabbitohs in range.
First a Kelly short ball created space for Sifa Talakai to put winger Sitiveni Moceidreke over in the right corner before Talakai scored himself barely a minute later from a Kelly grubber.
Manly pulled away again right on three-quarter time as a well-weighted wide grubber from Cherry-Evans sat up for rookie winger Peter Schuster to score, with Walker nailing another sideline conversion making it 22-10 lead with 20 to play.
Both coaches pulled most of their NRL players off the field for the final quarter and the quality of the game dipped accordingly with plenty of errors.
Young Souths winger Ed Murphy darted through a gap on the back of a Manly error in the second-last minute to close the final margin to 22-16.
Manly Sea Eagles 22 (Kennedy, J Wright, Walker, Schuster tries; Walker 3 goals) def South Sydney Rabbitohs 16 (Moceidreke, Talakai, Murphy tries; Levido, Doueihi goals)