The Warriors have engineered one of the great NRL turnarounds, stunning Manly 24-16 in their most inspired performance of an erratic season.
Everything pointed to a Sea Eagles win in Auckland on Friday but the visitors’ run of hot form was extinguished in cold wet conditions, forced into a litany of mistakes by a Warriors side out to restore pride.
A week after their 46-12 trouncing from Canberra at Mt Smart Stadium, the Warriors defended with desperation and were sharp enough to create three first-half tries, including a Ken Maumalo double.
Down 18-0, Manly surged with a late comeback, scoring three tries between the 68th and 75th minutes. Reuben Garrick crossed twice as the the Warriors scrambled without Adam Blair, who was in the sin bin.
Warriors hooker Jazz Tevaga brought relief to a small crowd of 9595, sealing victory with a burrowing try.
An eighth win of the season kept their slim final football hopes alive and ensured they didn’t suffer a club-record seventh straight defeat at their home ground.
Manly registered just their second loss in eight games to dent their chances of a top-four finish.
On top of that, the Sea Eagles have fresh injury concerns although coach Des Hasler said scans would be needed to gauge the damage to Brad Parker, Curtis Sironen and captain Daly Cherry Evans.
Parker was carried off in the 22nd minute with what Hasler said could be knee cartilage damage, suffered in freakish circumstances when the centre took his first step after tapping the ball from a restart.
In-form second rower Sironen limped off late with a leg concern which Hasler hopes is cramp but could be a hamstring twinge.
Out-of-sorts halfback Cherry-Evans played on in pain with an ankle issue suffered in the first spell.
Hasler said Parker and Sironen looked “a bit grey” for Thursday’s clash with Wests Tigers.
Powerhouse winger Maumalo, who claimed the competition lead for tries with 16, was set up on both occasions by deft touches from five-eighth Chanel Harris-Tavita, who was the game’s outstanding player.
The rookie five-eighth unfurled a classy all-round display that belied his first grade inexperience.
He kicked cleverly, took smart options and was a punishing force on defence, including one memorable spot tackle on Tom Trbojevic.
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Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck also produced a moment of magic for the Warriors, delivering a no-look flick to Ligi Sao, who scored his first try in four seasons for the club.
Coach Stephen Kearney said he sensed his players would rise after their gritty standards of the last two months evaporated last week against the Raiders.
“Attitude disappears if you’re not prepared to dip in and they came out tonight to beat a very good footy team,” Kearney said.
“I’m just really pleased with the way they responded to some warranted criticism.”