Dragons v Sea Eagles: Five key points
Attack was the order of the day as the Dragons claimed a crucial 52-22 win over the Sea Eagles to keep their finals push well and truly alive.
Barrett defends decision to rest key duo
Blake Green and Brenton Lawrence's presence wouldn't have altered the result but their absence was noticeable as the Sea Eagles suffered their worst loss of the season.
With games against top two teams the Storm and Roosters in the next fortnight, Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett took the cautious approach of resting the veteran pair who were both struggling with niggling injuries.
"They're both carrying niggles," Barrett said after the game.
"We were down on troops obviously, but looking at the big picture, we've got Melbourne away next week, the Roosters at home and then we're into the last four games. Whilst we were down on troops, that's no excuse to be down 30-0 at half-time."
Dufty shines on debut
Matt Dufty justified the hype with a sensational debut at the back that has some calling for him to be handed the No.1 jersey next season in place of the Cronulla-bound Josh Dugan.
The highly-touted fullback finished his NYC career as the leading try-scorer in Holden Cup history and that attacking flair was on full display with 11 tackle breaks, a try and two assists.
"He showed what he's got – he's got the ability to burn people with his speed and he's got a really nice catch and pass," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said.
"His strength is a bit deceptive because he's so quick he can get away from people so he can use his natural strength."
Manly to embrace the pain
It was the first time Manly had conceded more than 50 points in a game since 2005 but rather than wipe it from the memory banks, Trent Barrett wants his players to embrace the pain heading into the final six rounds of the season.
"I don't want them to wipe it. I want them to be disappointed because we can't toss that up," Barrett said.
"It doesn't matter who you've got in the team, to concede that many points – regardless of how they get them – isn't good enough. We've got to learn a lesson from it. The players are shattered and we all are but it's just another lesson for us."
Macdonald's game-changing play
Paul McGregor has paid tribute to winger Nene Macdonald for his match-changing play that halted Manly's charge and swung momentum back to the home side.
With Manly smelling blood in the water after four rapid-fire tries, it looked like the Sea Eagles would further eat into the deficit when Daly Cherry-Evans put up the dreaded second kick with only a few defenders back on their line.
The pinpoint kick could have led to another Manly try, but instead Macdonald did what he does best and rose highest to claim the kick in-goal to gift his side a much-needed seven-tackle set.
The visitors didn't score a point after that and the significance of the play wasn't lost on McGregor.
"I thought a real special moment was when Nene took that ball above his head," he said.
"I think it was 30-22 at the time and that was needed. If it goes the other way and they get a try then we're really under the pump so to come up with a big play like that at the time, I thought that really swung the momentum."
More back luck for Aitken
Euan Aitken's injury-plagued season suffered a setback with the talented centre facing another stint on the sidelines after he injured his shoulder late in the second half.
The incident couldn't have been any more innocuous as he went over for his second try of the afternoon, but the pain was clear to see as he was immediately taken from the field in a blow to Aitken who has managed just 11 matches this season because of a troublesome hamstring.
"I don't know how bad it is now but I haven't seen that before [when] someone pops their shoulder scoring a try," McGregor said.
"He's missed a lot of footy with his hamstring tendon, he came back and missed another game last week and he came back today and now he's hurt his shoulder. It's not good for the young man but we've got quality replacements."