Manly Sea Eagles put together a superb comeback to defeat Canberra Raiders 19-18 and move back into the top four in a pulsating contest tonight at Suncorp Stadium.
The Sea Eagles were wobbly in the first half but piled on 19 straight points to overcome a dogged Canberra Raiders side also fighting for their season and show there is life to the side without superstar fullback Tom Trbojevic.
Daly Cherry-Evans has made a habit of game-winning field goals for the Sea Eagles. Once again, the mercurial halfback stood up and potted his 23rd field goal to secure the two points for his side tonight. Two important points which for now, puts them into fourth spot on the NRL ladder.
Missing their main man, the Sea Eagles looked to their leaders in the halves to spark them. They fumbled their way through the first half but Daly Cherry-Evans had the ball on a string in the second half with two tries coming directly from the halfback's boot. Haumole Olakau'atu kept his impressive form going with a four-pointer.
Knowing that tonight was almost do-or-die, Canberra Raiders came out tonight on a mission. The Green Machine were the first to find their feet in the contest. Centre Matt Timoko provided a magic flick pass for Harley Smith-Shields to make it 4-nil before a Sam Williams penalty goal put them ahead by six.
Canberra kept their foot on the throat as they pushed over the advantage line and profited from some uncharacteristic Sea Eagles errors. Reuben Garrick was the stand-in fullback and spilled an easy kick which led to the second four-pointer. It went through the hands of the whole spine before Bailey Simonsson dived over for a 12-nil lead at the break.
There was a different edge to the Sea Eagles after half-time. Maybe propelled by a Des Hasler spray they got the ideal start to the second half when Haumole Olakau'atu dived over from close range to cut the deficit to six. It was a much more composed Sea Eagles side which turned the Raiders pack around and made them do the hard yards often.
It was whoever was the first to blink which would lose this contest. Cherry-Evans controlled the flow with his short kicking game and forced the returning Charnze Nicholl-Kolkstad into an error on his second touch. Sea Eagles did their best to bomb the try but a kick to the wing of Morgan Harper saw the centre wrestle over to make it 12-all.
Now with wind in their sails, the Sea Eagles kicked themselves ahead in the 63rd minute. His short grubber was latched onto by a chasing Curtis Sironen to put the Sea Eagles ahead for the first time tonight, 18-12 after Garrick's third conversion of the night.
With two minutes on the clock, a calm and collected Cherry-Evans potted the one-pointer which would give his side a seven-point buffer and all but confirm victory.
There was a late scare for the Sea Eagles as the Raiders got within a point though. Some work down the right side created a break before the inside pass gave Nicholl-Klokstad a four-pointer in his return after his lay-off since Round five. There was a desperation two-point field goal attempt from Jordan Rapana which fell well short.
Canberra are still alive in the hunt for the top eight but the equation has become much harder. The ACT side need to win both their games remaining and get some help around them qualify for a third consecutive finals series. For Manly, they just have to keep winning and hope the Roosters slip up in the remaining rounds to hold on to a spot in the top four.