As if being trounced 34-18 by premiers North Queensland wasn’t enough, Manly have lost star Dylan Walker to a leg in jury.
Already down on numbers before his departure, the Sea Eagles were outmuscled by the Cowboys in front of 11,734 fans at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night.
The home side lost Brett Stewart, Tom Trbojevic and Api Koroisau before kick off, causing a major reshuffle but had another spoke thrown in the wheel when Walker left the field midway through the second half.
Despite Manly officials insisting he was fine and that he was only taken off as a precaution, their star recruit spent most of the second half on the bench.
With their line up in disarray, the Sea Eagles offered little resistance as the Cowboys’ stars ran riot to record their seventh win from nine rounds.
Importantly, it equalled the club’s best start to a season, matching the 7-2 opening to their 2006 campaign.
The tone was set when Kyle Feldt crossed for a double inside in the first 15 minutes.
The Cowboys made the home side pay for ill discipline with their first three tries coming off the back of penalties.
Antonio Winterstein’s 19th minute try summed up the match with the Cowboys pulling off a crisp run-around which made the Manly defensive line look disorganised.
The Cowboys were controversially denied a try to Michael Morgan because of interference by Kane Linnett on Jamie Lyon. While it had no affect on the result, replays revealed the Sea Eagles’ skipper had milked the penalty.
Despite playing in a badly beaten side, halfback Daly Cherry-Evans was at his scheming best, scoring a consolation second-half try, setting up Jamie Lyon with a neat grubber, almost scoring off a Steve Matai charge-down and pulling off a memorable try-saver on Gavin Cooper.
The Cowboys’ forwards as a unit were immense, with James Tamou, Matt Scott, Ethan Lowe, Jason Taumalolo and Ben Hannant all running for more than 100 metres.