A spurned Dylan Walker has provided a swift rebuttal to his NSW axing, spearheading Manly’s drought-breaking 36-6 NRL win over St George Illawarra on Monday night.
Just hours after being informed that he’d been dropped from Laurie Daley’s side for State of Origin III, the Manly centre crossed for two tries to deny the hapless Dragons a golden opportunity to jump into the top eight.
The Sea Eagles went into the game on an eight-game losing streak but put on their best performance under coach Trent Barrett, running in seven tries to one in front of 9048 at Brookvale Oval.
Tom Trbojevic, filling in for the injured Brett Stewart at fullback, once again demonstrated he was the future of the club, throwing a gorgeous catch-and-pass cut-out ball for Jorge Taufua’s first of two tries.
The result was Manly’s biggest win of the year.
The Dragons failed at the fundamentals, completing just 19 of 32 sets while Manly ran for 1837m compared to the visitors’ 1117m.
Despite talk that Benji Marshall was back to his best after carving up bottom-placed Newcastle the week before, the Dragons playmaker had an awful night.
His ill-conceived chip-and-chase handed Manly possession in the lead up to Taufua’s first and he threw the pass which was intercepted by Walker, who ran 90 metres to make it 22-0 at the break.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor would have loved nothing more than to have 16 clones of Tyson Frizell to put in his line-up, with the Blues back-rower’s gutsy – albeit unsuccessful – chase on Walker the side’s lone bright spot in a forgettable performance.
When Sea Eagles back-rower Jamie Buhrer broke through two tacklers to race 80 metres to score from a scrum in the 67th minute, it summed up the match.
Dragons forward Joel Thompson is also facing his third high tackle suspension of the year after collecting Luke Burgess, who was forced from the field, late in the game.
Barrett said he was relieved after breaking the side’s losing streak and called it the performance they had been building up to for months.
“I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know when. It took a lot longer than we’d hoped,” Barrett said.
“We’ve had a lot of things go against us and not a lot of things go right.”
McGregor branded his side’s performance as embarrassing and said his side weren’t playing like they deserved to be in finals contention.
“It’s wrong to identify individuals in a team sport, we’re all in it together,” he said.
“We’re all a bit embarrassed to be honest with you.
“It’s a very proud club and today wasn’t a good day.”