Sea Eagles soar into top four calculations
When Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary finished off a sublime left-edge move to give his side an 18-4 lead, the Sea Eagles – a side that had conceded 92 points in the past fortnight – had two choices.
They could have thrown in the towel and accepted another heavy defeat which would have seen them drop to eighth spot on the ladder and put their finals hopes in serious doubt.
That would have been easy.
Instead, they huddled together under the posts, looked each other in the eye and decided to make a stand against one of the competition favourites.
"We spoke a lot about our character as a side and facing adversity," Sea Eagles skipper Daly Cherry-Evans said after the win.
"The last two weeks the result had obviously put us under a lot of adversity, but 18 points in the first half, we felt it could have gone one of two ways. We spoke about it and we did address it under the sticks so it's fantastic to see the whole team stick together and fight their way through it.
"Scoring first in the second half gave us an opportunity to get back into the game and then from there, momentum built pretty quickly. It was a fantastic show of character for us to hang in there."
Cherry-Evans and fullback Tom Trbojevic stole the show as the Sea Eagles piled on 32 unanswered points to claim a comfortable 36-18 win in front of their home fans to move within one game of the third-placed Broncos.
Sunday's result ends a horror fortnight for the Sea Eagles who had conceded a staggering 92 points in back-to-back losses to the Dragons and Storm that saw them go from top-four hopefuls to a side stuck in a dogfight for a spot in the eight.
"It was a bit uncharacteristic, the last fortnight, I suppose, but to the players' credit they worked really hard and we got rewarded with the result today," Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett said.
"I knew if we had a fair share of possession then we'd be OK. The most pleasing thing was our defence. We had two awful weeks and we showed a fair bit of resolve and a lot of character to come back."
With six teams fighting for three spots in the top four, the equation is fairly simple for Manly: keep winning and let the rest take care of itself.
They don't want to fall into the trap of taking the 15th-placed Tigers lightly when they meet next week, but should they claim the two competition points the drums will only beat louder for a top-four finish; an amazing scenario given what's happened in recent weeks.
"We didn't speak about it too much but we all knew where we sat," Barrett said of the enormity of Sunday's result.
"It gives us a bit of a springboard into the next four games – we can't look past the Tigers next week – but we're two points out of the top four, and who knows?
"We just need to turn up with that attitude and if they keep working as hard as they did in the last two weeks… the scorelines weren't a reflection of their attitude during the week so it was hard to cop but we had to cop it. They'll learn, I'll learn and we'll learn from it, but I don't want to go through it again."