The Sea Eagles stunned the Cowboys with a 22-point win in Townsville in Round 3 of the Telstra Premiership. Here are five talking points from the game.
Cowboys attack lacks fluency and patience
North Queensland struggled without a host of their first-choice players tonight, with Lachlan Coote and Antonio Winterstein non-starters, and Justin O'Neill leaving the field in the first half through injury. Their lack of polish was especially evident when they attacked the Manly line, as they were consistently repelled or made errors, turning over possession. Cowboys coach Paul Green admitted that the performance did not maintain their usual consistency.
"We just lacked a bit of patience and probably went away from what we do well and that's probably one of our strengths is our consistency with how we play," he said.
Captain Johnathan Thurston agreed with Green, noting that their lack of patience was their undoing late in the game.
"It was very unlike us, we panicked, it was a bit frantic out there and we went away from what we do well," Thurston said.
Manly's defence toughens up
Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett spoke to the media post-match about the strong defence of his players, which rebounded from a poor performance against the South Sydney Rabbitohs last week.
"The players knuckled down, we had a bit of a point to prove, we were pretty ordinary against [South Sydney] last week. The defence from Round 1 was back again tonight," he said.
Barret was similarly pleased with the consistency his team showed, after denying the Cowboys any tries for 52 minutes.
"It's hard to pinpoint one tackle, there was probably a dozen, but we've got to do it again next week."
Injury headaches continue
After their golden point win against the Broncos in Round 2 where they lost Lachlan Coote, Antonio Winterstein and Matt Scott, the Cowboys were again struck by injury. Justin O'Neill left the field in the first half with a hamstring injury and Kyle Feldt completed the second half, despite being visibly pained by his ankle. Scans on Monday will reveal the extent of the damage to both players and the Cowboys will be hoping for good news, given they're running short on players to fill in their back line. NYC star Gideon Gela-Mosby is one of the next likely call-ups, despite having never played in regular-season NRL.
Manly to back up performance
While the Sea Eagles are pleased to have their first win of the season, their attention has already turned to repeating their strong performance next week.
"We can't be one hit wonders, we've got to back it up next week, we've got another hard game," Barrett said.
Manly's inconsistency surfaced quickly in 2017, after a close loss to the Eels in Round 1 was followed up by a 20-point loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Captain Daly Cherry-Evans was confident the Sea Eagles could continue to improve.
"We've just got to keep building on our performance tonight, and our discipline and errors are two things we can fix up in our control," Cherry-Evans said.
Cowboys not interested in excuses
While their performance left a lot to be desired the Cowboys shut down any talk of making excuses for their flat game, despite missing Jason Taumalolo and Matt Scott in the forwards and starting their season with two extra-time games.
"You could use that as an excuse if you wanted to but it didn't seem to worry the Broncos on Thursday night. I'm not going to use that as an excuse, it was still an un-Cowboy-like performance," Green said.
Five-eighth Michael Morgan was similarly confident that excuses wouldn't improve their performances.
"Everyone knows how to tackle and everyone knows how to catch a ball… to leak 30 points, that's what's disappointing and frustrating," he said.
"That doesn't come down to injuries or anything like that. That's being in the right mindset going into the game and during the game."