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The Roosters defeated Manly 20-10 on an emotional night at 4 Pines Park.
The story was unlikely to be about football, but for the Roosters there was always work to be done and they did it – just… Their performance, against anything other than a heavily depleted squad, would have probably resulted in a loss.
Manly, if you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve had an interesting week. Ever since they debuted their Pride jerseys on Monday, they’ve been the center of international media attention: everyone from the Washington Post had a view on the Sea Eagles sartorial.
They were without seven first team members, who elected not to play in the Pride jumper: Haumole Olakau’atu, Josh Aloiai, Tolutau Koula, Christian Tuipulotu, Toafofoa Sipley, Josh Schuster and Jason Saab. In their place, Manly fielded three debutants and two who had long been between NRL drinks.
Alfred Smalley and Pio Seci made their best arcs on the wings, with Zac Fulton, grandson of Bob and son of Scott, becoming the third generation of his family to represent the Sea Eagles.
Morgan Boyle made his first appearance since Round 4 of last year, while James Segeyaro made his club debut having not played in the NRL since 2019.
With so many outings, many leaned heavily on their experienced heads. Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran have been excellent, while Reuben Garrick looks better and better with every game he plays as a fullback.
Although the Roosters are happy with their win, they are counting the injury cost again, with Lindsay Collins taken off after a nasty header clash with Boyle. It was the Queensland prop’s first game since Origin 3, and it lasted just 26 minutes.
For their part, the Chooks were able to get an early lead, and while they played around with their food a bit, the outcome was never in doubt. Those who lost the second half and failed to score a try after the break will be of deep concern.
It was far from their best, with far too many mistakes for Trent Robinson’s liking. The whole match was played with a lack of intensity, especially in the second half.
Only a late try from Manly and a brief scrimmage at the end were signs of life. The Sea Eagles strained badly, but the Roosters had no excuses as 19 errors and a 60% success rate – 50% in the second half – told their own story.
In the end, they had enough class in James Tedesco, Sam Walker and Joey Manu to get the points that mattered, but they were as good as they should be and nothing more.
Manly’s new right edge was the source of all their early problems. They had two early warnings – one resulting in a penalty after a high shot from Smalley which could be of interest to the courts – before Walker found his reach and sent Daniel Tupou on.
The Sea Eagles had a searing crisis, but struggled to cope when the Chooks attack began. Tedesco created another, this time down the right, with a deft kick freeing Nat Butcher to score.
There was a lot of fighting from the hosts, and it paid off. Cherry-Evans lured Luke Keary off the line and prompted Andrew Davey to hit back.
Manly, however, let the kickoff land and it took a horror rebound into the hands of the Roosters. In a few seconds, Joey Manu had restored the advantage to two tries. Walker added another goal from the penalty spot shortly after half-time, but their error rate continued to hold them back offensively.
They were nearly caught off guard: Garrick made space down the left with a clever catch-up pass, only for Morgan Harper to leave the ball behind with the pleading line. Cherry-Evans went even closer, dribbling through the Roosters defense with her feet before unsuccessfully attempting to take to the ground.
Manly finally struck, with a smooth passing motion that allowed Smalley to cross for a first down. With 22 seconds left, Egan Butcher found himself in the bin for a high shot over Segeyaro, with Harper joining him for a third entry in the ensuing push match.