Manly coach Des Hasler says he is disappointed his under-strength side wasn't able to scrape together a win against strugglers Penrith on Thursday night in what he says was the sort of game contenders need to be earning competition points from.
Manly were without Daly Cherry-Evans and Jake Trbojevic due to Origin with Tom Trbojevic (hamstring) expected to bolster the squad as early as round 13.
"We definitely had some opportunities in the second half. I thought they were bit better than us in the first half," was Hasler's blunt assessment after his side scored twice in the final 10 minutes to turn a 15-0 deficit into a 15-12 loss.
"Once we started to get a bit of ascendency through the middle it could have done either way.
"It was pleasing the way we hung in there and things started to work for us and we started to get back in the game. I guess there were a few opportunities we could have taken but we didn't.
"It's probably at the stage of the season, those two points, both sides want to make a move. During the Origin period games like that are important and we had our chances."
Hasler refused to blame the representative hit, saying all teams this week were in the same predicament. Those on the bye will get their turn in round 16.
"Last week, they were not what you call upsets last week, probably some form reversals definitely, it's just that time of year you battle through it, get some players and back try and stay healthy," he said.
Stand-in playmaker Cade Cust had some bright moments, setting up one of his team's tries and scoring the other. He is the fourth-choice half behind Cherry-Evans, Lachlan Croker (hamstring) and his current partner Kane Elgey but earned praise from Hasler.
Cust gives Manly hope
"He had some good moments Cadey, he certainly gives us some good options and good depth," Hasler said.
"There's a little bit of versatility about him as well. I'm really happy for Cade at the moment, plus the experience he's getting as well."