Manly coach Geoff Toovey has hailed his injury-hit side’s “heroic” performance after they scored a dominant 32-12 win over the Warriors to keep their NRL playoff hopes alive.
In a battle of attrition, the Warriors’ defeat was compounded by a season-ending ankle injury to star halfback Shaun Johnson as he scored their opening try.
They also lost second rower Bodene Thompson to an ankle problem, but Manly were even more badly hit.
The Sea Eagles had centre Steve Matai and forwards Luke Burgess, Ligi Sao and Tom Symonds depart at different stages and played out most of the final quarter of Saturday’s match without a bench.
“It was a fantastic effort, very heroic,” Toovey said.
“It was a fantastic win for us and one we needed. We need to win every game we’ve got to sneak into those semis.”
Toovey said Burgess, Sao and Symonds suffered what “could be three significant knee injuries”.
The prognosis was better for Matai, who smacked his head on the ground when he slipped backwards.
“He will be fine,” Toovey said.
“He wanted to come back out. That’s the type of player he is.”
Manly headed into the match down in 13th position and after a mid-week report that the club wanted to release Toovey and 14 players at the end of the season.
Toovey said the off-field dramas had galvanised the players.
He declined to comment on his own situation, saying he didn’t want take to the gloss off the win.
The Warriors were seventh coming into the weekend, but have now fallen to two successive big defeats.
Skipper Simon Mannering said they had a reality check last week when they lost 24-0 to the Sydney Roosters.
“I didn’t think we needed another one, but we definitely got it tonight,” he said.
Mannering said the Warriors probably had more to play for, but Manly showed more enthusiasm.
“They showed us how it was done,” he said.
“I thought we were pretty poor defensively. We didn’t show any desperation out there.”
Manly made most of the running and, in prop Jake Trbojevic, they had a player who gave them plenty of go-forward.
It was Trbojevic who got the match’s first try, thanks to a superb Sao offload.
The Sea Eagles continued to threatened, but were pegged back when Johnson stepped past three defenders to score, but got his left ankle trapped as he reached out to dot down.
At 6-6, Manly broke the game open with three tries in eight minutes early in the second spell.
Winger Jorge Taufua got two of them, on either side of a four-pointer from fullback Brett Stewart, who later completed his own double.
Substitute forward Albert Vete replied for the home side, but Matt Ballin darted over from dummy half to add the icing for the visitors.