Des Hasler's Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles have given their mentor a leg-up over his former club, toughing out an 18-10 win over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in front of 10148 fans at Lottoland tonight.
Dominating field position in the opening exchanges, the Sea Eagles capitalized with the first try of the evening when halfback Kane Elgey threw a looping long ball over the top for rookie winger Reuben Garrick to cross in the 8th minute.
Taking on the goal-kicking duties in the absence of injured skipper Daly Cherry-Evans, Garrick converted his own try from the touchline to give his team an early 6-0 lead.
The home team continued rolling through the middle third of the park in the ensuing ten minutes and in a carbon copy of the opening four-pointer, Elgey threw another ball over the top gifting Garrick a double in the 17th minute leaving serious question marks over the Bulldogs left edge defence.
Garrick again slotted the conversion from the side-line extending the lead to twelve.
It wouldn't take the visitors long to hit back when five-eight Jack Cogger kicked cross-field for Reimis Smith to leap above the pack and bring the ball into his grasp with a spectacular right arm grab to get his team back in the contest.
Back-rower Rhyse Martin converted from out wide to reduce the deficit to six after twenty minutes of play.
That would bring a close to the try-scoring action in the opening half, with a Garrick penalty goal in the 34th minute sending the Sea Eagles into the sheds leading 14 points to 6. .
Momentum was turning in favour of the Bulldogs in the second stanza and they brought themselves right back into the match when a nice cut-out ball from Adam Elliott opened up space on the right for Will Hopoate who showed quick hands to send Smith scorching down the side-line for his double in the 59th minute.
Down by four heading into the final quarter, the Bulldogs were enjoying the majority of the scoring chances, but the resolute defence that Hasler has instilled since returning to the club saw the Sea Eagles turn away numerous attacking raids, ensuring the win.
Garrick would add to his personal tally for the night with two more penalty goals in the closing stages.
The win looks to have come at another cost, with Lachlan Croker leaving the field in the second half with a suspected hamstring strain, adding to their already decimated play-making stocks.
Both teams head north to Suncorp Stadium for the NRL's first ever Magic Round next weekend, with the Sea Eagles playing the Brisbane Broncos on Friday night and the Bulldogs tackling the Newcastle Knights on Saturday afternoon.