Manly-Warringah have picked up their first opening-round win since 2013, comfortably accounting for an error-prone Canterbury side 31-6 at Brookvale on Saturday.
A packed house - 17,217 fans - at 4 Pines Park were treated to a messy opening 15 minutes before Tom Trbojevic pounced on a DCE grubber to start the scoring for the afternoon.
Despite a sloppy opening quarter of the contest, Canterbury managed to turn the tables, scoring a try with a bit of luck for Reed Mahoney, snapping up his own grubber kick off the post to ground it and level scores.
The turning point for the contest arguably came at the 35 minute mark, when Manly looked likely to score, but a Bunker review resulted in a sin-bin for Kyle Flanagan for a professional foul which came in for plenty of criticism from commentators and fans alike.
Manly took full advantage of the additional player on the park, Reuben Garrick breaking the deadlock just a minute later, allowing Manly a 12-6 half time lead. Cherry-Evans scoring three minutes after halftime dented any hopes the Bulldogs had of a solid start to the second forty.
By the time Flanagan returned, the rot had set in. Matt Burton was having a shocking afternoon with the boot and handling errors were common for a range of players. Around the hour mark, the captain had a double for Manly and a 24-6 lead just about had the game won for the hosts.
The Sea Eagles were comfortable enough to take Tom Trbojevic after this point (although he would return to the field later). Eight minutes from the end of play Cherry-Evans added to his personal scoresheet with a field goal, before plucking an intercept off a lazy Bulldogs attacking string on fulltime to deliver the final scoreline of 31-6.
The loss deflates Canterbury's optimistic off-season outlook very quickly, and it gets no easier as they head to Melbourne next Saturday. Manly enjoy the bye next week before hosting Parramatta in a fortnight.
Match Highlights - #NRLManlyBulldogs
The return of Tom Trbojevic and a captain's knock from Daly Cherry-Evans led Manly to a 31-6 win over the Bulldogs! pic.twitter.com/cI1adPzikt
— NRL (@NRL) March 4, 2023