Roosters v Sea Eagles: Five key points
The Roosters and Sea Eagles put on a finals-quality contest on Friday night, with Manly coming out on top 18-12 in a bruising contest that ended the home side's unbeaten start to 2017.
Dylan Walker steals the show
Sea Eagles centre Dylan Walker proved that his best position is definitely in the three-quarter line with a dominant display against State of Origin hopeful Latrell Mitchell.
Walker scored two crucial second-half tries – including the match winner two minutes from full-time – to silence the critics who bagged his selection in the Blues side for the 2016 campaign.
The 22-year-old ran for a whopping 200 metres and constantly bamboozled the defence with his footwork and raw speed.
"He scored two special tries that probably not a lot of individuals could have scored," Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett said after the game.
Resurgent Sea Eagles look the goods
A lot was said about the Sea Eagles after they started the year with back-to-back losses, but the naysayers have been eerily quiet ever since with Manly notching three wins on the trot to sit pretty in the Telstra Premiership top four.
It's not like the wins have been against easy-beats either, with Manly taking down the Cowboys, Bulldogs and Roosters; teams that played grand finals in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
"We've had two good weeks prior to tonight, but this was a real test for us," Barrett said after the game.
"It was a real grinding win on a wet night – not a pretty night – so I thought we were really good and it was a very valuable two points for us and a real confidence builder for us.
"We've got a lot of young players in our team who haven't played in games like that before so it's a big confidence builder for them and it gives us a bit more belief.
"I think we still have things to work on – we made it hard on ourselves again – but I'm just really proud of the players."
Cherry-Evans steps up in defence
Sea Eagles skipper Daly Cherry-Evans has been at the forefront of Manly's recent form, with the star halfback setting up a staggering five tries in the big win over the Bulldogs last week.
On Friday night, Cherry-Evans was fairly well contained by the Roosters, failing to contribute any explosive plays in attack.
Rather than accept that this wouldn't be his night, DCE stepped up without the ball, making a season-high 39 tackles against one of the best attacking sides in the competition.
"In all honesty, after a win things feel a lot easier; they really do," he said.
"As unaware as I am of the stats, it's all just really pleasing right now because of the result."
Ankle injury a concern for Napa
The Roosters' cause wasn't helped by the early injury to firebrand front-rower Dylan Napa who was forced from the field after 18 minutes with an ankle injury.
Napa left Allianz Stadium in a moon boot, but Roosters coach Trent Robinson couldn't provide an update on how long his star forward might be out for.
"It's just an ankle sprain. I'm not sure how bad [it is]. It's not the end of the world but it's not great either," he said.
"Losing a player like Dylan in one of those sorts of tight battles – the go-forward battles – I had to use Connor [Watson] a little bit differently and I think he did well."
To make matters worse, rising star Nat Butcher failed to finish his first game back in the Holden Cup after succumbing to a shoulder injury early in the second half.
Roosters didn't lose any admirers
After starting the season with four straight wins - and given the year from hell they had in 2016 – there is no need for anyone involved with the Roosters to start panicking after a loss like that. It was a brutal contest between two sides with a lot to prove, and in the end the difference was an outstanding bit of play by Dylan Walker. The Roosters weren't as crisp as they had been over the first month of the season, but they will bounce back in the coming weeks when Napa, Kane Evans and Sio Siua Taukeiaho return from their respective injuries.