Manly beat South Sydney in many aspects of Saturday night's 21-20 loss to South Sydney but not in two of the most vital ones at this stage of an NRL season – in energy and on the scoreboard.
"You've got to go right from the whistle. That's the disappointing part about this game," coach Des Hasler said.
"It's an important one as there's a lot riding on these games at the moment because of the congestion around the eight and around the four."
A victory for the Sea Eagles would have put them into the top four. But they should stay in the top eight even if the Eels beat the Wests Tigers on Sunday due to a better for-and-against.
Still, Manly halted their momentum of a three-match winning streak.
And they lost despite scoring more tries (4-3) and making more runs in attack (215 to 178), more offloads (20-6) and more forced dropouts than South Sydney.
One clue as to why might have been the 8-2 penalty count against the Sea Eagles.
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"I can't figure it. I just thought we tried to slow the ruck like they did – they did it really well – but we got penalised," Hasler said.
"You'd have to ask [NRL head of football] Graham Annesley and the officials about that. I know Graham said the other day he hasn't been too impressed with them.
"Look I thought our first-half performance was really down. We didn't compete half as well as what they did.
"They rolled down the field pretty easy. We didn't compete in the ruck hard enough.
"We addressed it at half-time but we shouldn't have been in that situation."
Manly turned around an 18-6 deficit at half-time to be 20-20 with eight minutes to play.
"We were in a position to win the game but we didn't do it. I thought a couple of end of sets... if we had our time over again we might have done it a little differently.
"That was the nature of the game. We were just off the pace I thought the whole game. That's something we need to address."
Match: Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles
Round 17 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium
- LIVE PASS
The closeness of the scoreboard meant he could not rest two of his Origin stars in Daly Cherry-Evans (Qld) and Jake Trbojevic (NSW). They both played 80 minutes, although fullback Tom Trboejvic was given the entire match off.
"We just couldn't get them off. They are too influential," Hasler said.
The influence of both Trbojevic brothers and Cherry-Evans will be key to Manly getting that winning feeling back when they host Parramatta at Lottoland next weekend.