Manly star Tom Trbojevic proved his status as the NRL’s most influential player, orchestrating a stunning Sea Eagles second-half comeback to bury an embarrassing Gold Coast 56-24 at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday.
The Titans had produced a perfect first half, with 24 of 24 completions on the back of 69% possession for a 24-8 lead at half-time but their second half was downright deplorable.
The Sea Eagles raced in four tries in just 12 minutes to take the lead after just 56 minutes on their way to seven tries in 21 minutes where Manly looked to be on a training run and the opposition had been told not to lay a hand on them.
Manly outscored the Titans 48-0 in the second half and raced in 50 points for the third time in five weeks, which were all floggings coming against Queensland teams - the Broncos in round 10 (50-6), the Cowboys last week (50-18).
Skipper Daly Cherry-Evans completed the rout when he scored in the 76th minute to celebrate his 250th NRL game where he also had three try assists.
Match: Titans v Sea Eagles
Round 15 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Trbojevic scored the third hat-trick of his NRL career and set up three tries in a sublime performance that would send shivers down the spine of Queensland coach Paul Green ahead of next Sunday’s must-win Origin clash at Suncorp Stadium.
It’s a headache now for Cherry-Evans who heads into Queensland camp to prepare to face NSW star Trbojevic, but he believes his club teammate is the best player in the game right now and can keep this red-hot form running all season.
"He gets my vote [as best player in the game], he is outstanding and has worked so hard on his game," Cherry-Evans said.
Get Caught Up: Round 15 must-see moments
"He is in a real nice purple patch at the moment but I believe it is sustainable.
"I think he can keep it going, I don’t think it’s just a little spike in his career.
"I have never experienced anything like that [second half], it’s just a sign of where the game is at. We are experiencing different scorelines and different momentum swings like never before.
"Today we were on the good end of it. When you get it you’ve got to ride it. We’ve got enough good players in our side to ride it."
When the Manly fullback is in this sort of form, he is simply impossible to stop and the Titans had no answer for his brilliance.
"He is just a danger with the ball in hand and his skill at finding the pass," Manly coach Des Hasler said.
"We have got to be able to put him in that position. Just on the ball and off the ball he is in great form at the moment and we need to maintain it."
Garrick has four tries now
Winger Reuben Garrick finished the night with four tries and 26 points, after booting just five of 11 conversions, to join the likes of Bob Fulton, Ken Irvine and Steve Menzies to bag four tries in a game for the Sea Eagles.
Fellow winger Jason Saab scored a double for the Sea Eagles as they made the Titans look like a clueless rabble in defence after starting the game like world beaters.
"We realised the second half they couldn’t score any more points," Hasler said.
"We were able to turn possession around, we were able to play a bit of field position and come up with points of our own.
"To be able to turn it around and come up with 48 points in second half there was some outstanding efforts there."
The milestone men combine for Manly
It was the Gold Coast’s fourth straight loss and fifth in six games as they continue to toss up performances where they look like a handy football side for half a game then play like complete strangers for the other 40 minutes.
The Titans' first half was full of promise, but Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler would’ve gone to half-time knowing his team could fight back given every try they conceded had come from kicks.
Fullback Jayden Campbell and lock Tyrone Peachey were in the thick of the action, both setting up two tries with clever grubber kicks behind the line.
Campbell scored the first try of his NRL career when he latched onto Peachey’s kick in the seventh minute.
Trbojevic scored two tries in two minutes early, once beating the Titans for pace and the second time outleaping Campbell for a bomb.
But Gold Coast settled, with Ash Taylor’s cross field bomb tapped back by Sam Stone to Jamal Fogarty who then put Greg Marzhew into the corner.
Marzhew had a double by the 28th minute with the first of Campbell’s grubbers before the young fullback’s next kick deflected off Kieran Foran for Patrick Herbert to score in the 32nd minute.
Peachey, promoted to the starting side with Moe Fotuaika moved back to the bench, completed his busy first half with the kick for David Fifita to extend the lead just before the half-time break.