Manly have put themselves right on the radar with a dominant 32-10 victory over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in front of 9,235 fans at Brookvale Oval.
The field was reminiscent of 1980s rugby league with the deluge of rain that hammered the northern peninsula in the afternoon brought us a game that was tight in stages brightened up by several moments of class from Daly Cherry-Evans.
In the opening twenty - it looked like Canterbury had settled into the regular pattern for the 2014 season thus far. The forwards were rolling through their work, Reynolds was lurking and Hodkinson was kicking for distance. Their effort got them a due result in the 18th minute when Tim Lafai found his winger sending Mitch Brown on the inside for 6-nil.
The opening quarter would be the only sniff the Bulldogs would get of the hunt, as two further breaks came to naught. Manly slightly fortuitously got the ball after the second of the line-breaks from the away side. The Bulldogs wouldn't touch the ball again until right before half-time and the scoreboard read 18-6 to Manly Warringah.
It was the class and guile of Daly Cherry-Evans who needed a fitness test earlier today to prove he could take his starting spot. He showed his leg was fine, kicking through for himself twice before shoveling the pass to Steve Matai to level proceedings. He poked his nose through again in the 38th minute before finding Lyon who sent Peta Hiku away to make it an unexpected 18-6 just before the break.
Once again it was the kicking game of Cherry-Evans that created havoc between those two efforts, that procured the second Sea Eagles try. His deep kick forced Sam Perrett to play at the ball captured by Stewart, who would light up the second half. Jesse Sene-Lefao pounced on an Anthony Watmough offload to score his first NRL try.
The ten minute raid though, belonged to Daly Cherry-Evans who departed the field after eight minutes of the second period. The work was done though, Manly led 20-6 following a Lyon penalty goal. The initial bluster of the impressive Bulldogs forward pack was blunted and it was turning into a coronation for the Sea Eagles who ran riot.
A Manly game at Brookvale wouldn't be complete without the 'Prince of Brookvale' getting across the stripe. The fullback who has had a inconsistent 2014 got himself to 140 career tries with his two efforts to bring it to 32 points scored for the runners up from 2013. Both came from kicks but in two different circumstances.
His first highlighted the awareness shared between Stewart and his captain, Jamie Lyon as the latter produced a grubber that only the former would be able to reach just inside the dead-ball line. The 70th minute effort was all timing from the younger Stewart brother as he timed his run to swoop inside Perrett's guard to spin and score.
After their initial bluster, Canterbury never worked themselves into the contest again. Manly produced an eighteen point salvo in the first half to stun the competition leaders. They could only respond once in the second half with Chase Stanley crossing in the 55th minute before the centre had to depart with the re-occurrence of a knee injury.
Manly claimed another scalp at fortress Brookvale but will be counting the cost if Daly Cherry-Evans and Anthony Watmough who both departed early are out for any length of time. For Canterbury, Chase Stanley may miss some time once again with a knee injury while Sam Kasiano could be in some trouble with his late hit on Cherry-Evans.