A Daly Cherry-Evans field goal in golden point extra-time proved the difference as Manly held off an injury-ravaged Raiders side for a 21-20 win at Lottoland.
DCE has ice in his veins
It's hard enough to win a football game, but the Sea Eagles dug deep to win it twice against the Raiders on Sunday afternoon with halfback Daly Cherry-Evans standing tall when it mattered most to nail the match-winning field goal in the first period of extra-time.
The prodigiously-talented playmaker has developed into one of the most reliable sharpshooters with the game on the line, with Sunday's one-pointer his 13th career field goal.
"That's what the good halfbacks do," Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett said. "'Cherry' has got the No.7 on his back for a reason. He had a bit of heat coming on him so I thought we did it really well."
Kick-chase the key to Manly's success
While stats can often be a rugby league critic's best friend, numbers don't always tell the full story. The most important facet of Manly's game on Sunday was their kick-chase effort to force six line dropouts against a big Raiders pack while the Green Machine failed to nail one.
None was more important than Cherry-Evans's raking kick and gut-busting chase to pin Jack Wighton in his in-goal when the Raiders were starting to wrestle back momentum in the second half.
"The one that was probably highlighted was Chez's kick into that left-hand corner in the second half for him and Dylan [Walker] to get Jack in the corner. That's what good teams do," Barrett said.
Both teams counting the cost of epic battle
Manly's win was soured with news winger Jorge Taufua had likely suffered an ACL injury in the dying stages of the contest.
"We think he might have done his ACL so it's not good news," Barrett said after the game.
The news was even worse for the visitors who lost Shannon Boyd to an HIA early on, only for his replacement, Dunamis Lui, to suffer a suspected ACL tear seven minutes after coming on.
To make matters worse, Boyd returned to the field only to suffer a knee injury of his own, although his medial strain isn't expected to be too serious.
"He doesn't look good, Dunamis. We'll get scans…it more than likely looks like an ACL but fingers crossed it won't be. It doesn't look good," Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said.
Jordan Rapana goes from strength to strength
Jordan Rapana confirmed his status as the best winger in the game with another stunning performance in a beaten side.
The Raiders flyer bagged a double to reclaim his place on top of the try-scoring tally in 2017 and added 254 metres and six tackle breaks to tear the Sea Eagles apart on the right flank.
His second try of the game – a scything 75-metre run from dummy-half – was pure class and one that few players in the game could have scored.
"Jordan Rapana was nearly the best player on the field, if not the best player on the field. He's an amazing talent and he can change the game very quickly," Cherry-Evans said.
More heartbreak for the Raiders
The difference between playing finals footy and enjoying an early summer break can often come down to the barest of margins, and Canberra's third golden-point loss of the season has them outside the top eight halfway through the season.
The Raiders have lost to the Sea Eagles twice in extra-time in 2017 while they also went down to the Cowboys to a golden try in Round 1.
Further losses by one and six points respectively to the Broncos and Bulldogs have the Green Machine 6-7 after 13 rounds and in desperate need of some confidence-building wins in the coming weeks.
Ricky Stuart's men lost six games by six points or less in 2015 and ended up finishing 10th. If they don't find a way to win the close ones then the pre-season fancies could again find themselves watching on at the pointy end of the competition.