The Manly Sea Eagles have welcomed their origin stars back in style with a tough 22-20 win over a poor North Queensland Cowboys side at 1300 Smiles Stadium in Townsville.
The first half was a story of topsy-turvy fortunes for both sides with both sides holding comfortable leads at one stage or another. The Cowboys opened the scoring with a Jake Clifford penalty goal, but it was Manly who scored the opening try when Curtis Sironen ran a strong line off a short ball from Tom Trbojevic to score next to the posts.
The Sea Eagles added another try in mirror image fashion just with Joel Thompson bursting over off a no-look pass to the left of the uprights and after Reuben Garrick's conversion, Manly lead by 12-2.
The Cowboys fought back in the backend of the first half running in three tries in the final seven minutes with some good play by the home side. The first of their tries came through Kyle Feldt who had earned his side a penalty when he put his foot over the sideline to force an out on the full penalty. The Feldt try came when the Manly defence pushed up in-field and he was able to get space and score. The second try for the Cowboys was again about catching the defence napping, this time Michael Morgan put boot to ball and Feldt flew high - tapping the ball back to Tom Opacic.
The third for the home side came right on the stroke of half-time when Francis Molo used his big size to charge through some poor tackling to score and after Clifford's conversion the Cowboys took a 20-12 lead.
The second half was again a topsy-turvy affair with the Cowboys dominating field position but they weren't able to take their chances and add to the scoreboard. Manly closed the gap not long after the half time break when Jorge Taufua was able to get down low and get the ball just to the line to score.
North Queensland were then boosted when Manly's Jack Gosiewski was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul on Scott Bolton. The Cowboys looked to have scored through debutant Reuben Cotter who had been on for a matter of seconds but the Bunker intervened ruling an obstruction that left commentators, players and fans confused after Joel Thompson was ruled to have been obstructed despite it just looking like a missed tackle.
The Sea Eagles made the hosts pay for their mistakes, regaining the lead whilst down to 12 men. The first occasion came when Michael Morgan couldn't handle a kick from Daly Cherry-Evans and Cade Cust was on the spot to score the try and give Manly the lead. From that point, neither side could really get close, although both sides had chances at the death including Manly looking to have crossed in the final two minutes had it not been for a forward pass call.
Next weekend, the Cowboys are playing hosts to the Wests Tigers in Friday night's second game, whilst Manly return to Lottoland where they host the Dragons in Sunday's early game.