Manly look for momentum after morale-boosting win
The Sea Eagles return to Lottoland this week for their third home game in four weeks but still searching for their first win at the venue and are hoping last week's impressive upset over the Cowboys is the kick-start they needed.
That much-needed win in Townsville was even more impressive given the Cowboys' dominant home record and Manly's understrength forward pack (though the Cowboys were also missing their two best forwards) but while Manly's fill-in pack did a fine job they will be relieved to welcome back fiery props Martin Taupau and Addin Fonua-Blake from suspension in time to meet the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon.
"It was a good win. I thought we were real energetic and obviously defended really well which was good," said five-eighth Blake Green.
"We've been a bit patchy in our first two games, put some good phases of footy together then had some slow patches for five or 10 minutes that have been fairly costly so it was good to put an 80 minute performance together."
He admitted the return of two key props would be "handy".
"We've been a bit short in the middle but the guys that have come in have done a fantastic job with guys like Billy Bainbridge and Shaun Lane on the weekend.
"Lewy Brown's done a fantastic job as well, he's spent some time in the middle, I think he played about four positions in 20 minutes on the weekend. They've done a great job but having Marty and Addin back will be handy against a big pack like the Bulldogs."
The most pleasing aspect of the win over the Cowboys – as it was in a narrow possession-starved loss to the Eels in Round 1 – was some unrelenting goal-line defence.
"It is pleasing. We've done a fair bit of work in the pre-season around being a team that's hard to score against. We let ourselves down against Souths with that but our talk and energy was the main thing, a massive improvement on previous rounds," Green said.
"It's a difficult place to win games, in Townsville, a lot of clubs have struggled there so for us to get away and come up with a performance like that is pleasing but it's not going to mean too much unless we can bounce into this week and get a back-to-back win."
Lock Jake Trbojevic agreed with Green's assessment.
"It was pretty impressive defence right across the park and it was really good that the whole second half we held on and defended well. It was impressive, it was really pleasing," he said.
The biggest difference compared to the Souths loss – which was tight for a long stretch before the Bunnies raced away late – was that the team mentally stayed in the game better, he added.
"The Souths game we sort of started losing it and gave up a little bit and the game on the weekend we were always in it, defending sets on our line, even when they got a penalty or a repeat set we were pretty confident we could hold them out," Trbojevic said.
"It gives us a lot of confidence, now we know we can do it. When we're under pressure with our backs against the wall we can win the game and we've got a lot of resolve. Now we know we can do it we have to do it every week and keep backing it up. It's only early days."
Green also felt that his developing combination with new halves partner Daly Cherry-Evans was improving after their best game together last weekend.
"I think it's going pretty good, I thought we kicked really well on the weekend," he said.
"We've only had in the 40 per cent region in terms of possession in all three games so we haven't really had a massive share of the footy but we've scored points when we've had it. Our execution's been OK.
"I thought we played together a lot more at the weekend which is a positive sign. The more that me and Cherry can touch the footy and get us in the right positions the better we'll be."