A masterclass from Daly Cherry-Evans was nearly thrown away by his Manly Warringah side, but they hung on for a 36-30 upset victory over the Melbourne Storm to kick off Beanies for Brain Cancer Round at 4 Pines Park.
It was the home side that crossed for the first try when Ryan Papenhuyzen showcased some rust in his first game back from injury with a poorly timed grubber kick which was intercepted by Tolutau Koula who showcased his speed and raced 90 meters to cross untouched and set Manly up for an early lead. Reuben Garrick's conversion performed the double doink but failed to go over the uprights. Melbourne hit back moments later when Papenhuyzen showcased his skills with a lovely pass to Nick Meaney who crossed out-wide to put the Storm back on level terms before Meaney's sideline conversion put the Storm in front for the only time in the match.
Manly would take full momentum for the remainder of the first 40 minutes off the back of a brilliantly timed 40/20 from DCE which set Manly up in great attacking field position. It appeared that everything DCE was touching was turning to gold for Manly in the opening half when a well-executed set play saw Garrick throw a great pass to Jason Saab and Manly regained the lead. Garrick suffered a knock passing the final pass and wouldn't kick goals for the remainder of the contest, DCE nailed the kick from out near the sideline for Manly to lead by four.
Off the ensuing set a bomb from the QLD halfback was allowed to bounce by the Storm's back three and Christian Tuipulotu charged his way over the line to score. Melbourne weren't their usual clinical selves in this contest, forcing poor passes and dropping the ball in critical situations. Manly made them pay right on half-time when Saab crossed for his second juggling the ball to give Manly a twelve-point lead at the change of ends.
Despite the narrow margin, Melbourne was playing as if they were down by 30 with Craig Bellamy's half-time address seemingly going in one ear and out the other. Morgan Harper continued his strong game charging over the top of some pedestrian Melbourne defence to put his side up by sixteen. Off the ensuing set, Manly went down the field and hit Melbourne with their second double whammy of the match when Haumole Olakau'atu charged over the top of four defenders to cross and give Manly a 22-point lead.
Melbourne showed some signs of life off the very next play when Brandon Smith stole the ball off Martin Taupau and ran 20 meters to cross and give the Storm a chance. Any hope of a comeback appeared to be sniffed out when Koula scored off another DCE pass for Manly's seventh of the evening to lead 34-12. A run of sets on Melbourne's line eventually saw Manly add more points, however it was just a solitary penalty goal after Melbourne sent a short dropout out on the full and the Eagles looked home.
The last seven minutes were drama charged and all Manly's wrong doing. A failed attempt at a one on one strip by Taniela Paseka saw Melbourne cross off a routine scrum play when Nelson Asofa-Solomona crashed over. Off the kick-off, Josh Schuster was ruled offside and the Storm charged down field and Papenhuyzen crossed for the first of his two late tries when Manly's defence crumbled at the seems. The next kickoff saw it sail out on the full, which allowed Olam to cross for the Storm off some sloppy Manly defence. Although they finally got a kickoff right (yep it's a miracle), they let Papenhuyzen stroll straight through untouched to set up one final play. But, thankfully for Manly fans, there footy team remembered how to tackle for one play and hung on for an upset victory.
Manly have the bye next week so they can work on trying to stop these late game fadeouts which reminds us of Canberra. Melbourne take on the Sharks next Thursday night without their Origin stars in what will be a massive test and after tonight's performance, you'll have to say there's some concerned Storm fans.