A first-half onslaught has helped the Manly Sea Eagles to a comfortable 32-16 win over the Canberra Raiders at Lottoland on Saturday night but Trent Barrett has huge injury concerns with a number of stars going down.
The main worry will be for fullback Tom Trbojevic, who limped off with an ankle injury inside the final 10 minutes after scoring a try and creating four others in one of the most dominant performances of his impressive young career to date.
Curtis Sironen and Kelepi Tanginoa each went off with potentially serious knee injuries that left Barrett with just a single fit player on the bench at the end of the game.
Counterpart Ricky Stuart has concerns of his own after his side slumped to a 0-4 start to the season that has put them in virtual do-or-die territory by April.
Some awful moments of indiscipline – first during Manly's first half onslaught then again to snuff out their own potential second-half comeback – cost the Green Machine dearly.
The Raiders were also completely out-enthused by a Manly side that trounced them by more than 500 metres in the yardage battle. The dropping of playmaker Blake Austin – who scored a nice solo try for feeder club Mounties in the curtain-raiser to the NRL game – did little to spark the side which mostly looked clueless in its attacking opportunities.
Manly had no such problems as halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and the Trbojevic brothers lit up the first half in a stanza that was reminiscent of their trouncing of the Eels on the same ground a fortnight earlier.
After a powerful opening set Manly would have been somewhat surprised to concede the first try but a piggyback penalty and a nice inside ball from Raiders hooker Siliva Havili combined with a hard-running line from Sia Soliola helped the Raiders to first points.
That was just about the last of the good news for the Green Machine as Manly exploded with three tries in five minutes shortly after – all of it generated off the back of a magical combination between the Trbojevic brothers.
First a nice pass from Jake put Tom on the outside of Sam Williams, the fullback showing huge strength and speed to split the line and create a three-on-one play to send his brother over untouched under the posts.
A piggyback penalty to start their next possession helped Manly back in range; a Curtis Sironen offload to Jake Trbojevic was followed by a neat pass for Tom to again use his size and strength to push through the Raiders line, this time adjacent to the goalposts.
Another massive set made it three tries in three possessions when Api Koroisau shot from dummy half to send Tom Trbojevic scorching through a gap with Cherry-Evans backing up to make it 18-6 after 15 minutes.
A penalty goal extended their lead beyond two converted tries and the Raiders continued to give Manly a leg up with errors and penalties until the pressure finally told with Tom Trbojevic's third try assists of the half, firing a brilliant cutout to an unmarked Matt Wright.
Match: Sea Eagles v Raiders
Round 4 -
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One further Cherry-Evans penalty goal late in the half made it 26-6 at the break.
The penalties and possession started to turn around in the second half and while Manly were able to add another two points via a penalty goal the Raiders briefly threatened a comeback with two tries in three minutes midway through the half.
First Jarrod Croker got through plenty of traffic to score on Manly's right edge – right after Sironen was taken off from that exact channel – then Wighton split Lachie Croker and Joel Thompson to score a soft try on the other edge.
That closed the gap to 12 but a Joe Tapine error from the next set snuffed the fire out and Tom Trbojevic's fourth try assist of the game shortly after – again sending Wright over on the left flank – stretched Manly's lead to 32-16 with around 15 minutes to play.
A scrappy closing to the game featured plenty further penalties and errors but no further points as Manly moved into the top four on the Telstra Premiership ladder and left the Raiders in the bottom two above just Parramatta.