SEA EAGLES 52
The Warriors were gone by half-time in Manly last night, beaten by their own failure to maintain possession and mount pressure, as well as the smart play of Eagles halfback Matt Orford and centre Jamie Lyon.
The Auckland side were fatigued after the first 10 minutes and forced to defend their line repeatedly and it was simply a matter of when they'd crack. Their completion rate was an unbelievably low 13/30, their tackle count higher throughout the 52-6 hiding and finishing 281-199.
It was the Warriors' third-worst defeat (Dragons 54-0 in 2000, Roosters 58-6 in 2004).
The battle between Kangaroos centres Lyon and Brent Tate was intriguing, Tate's game for the Warriors much improved, Lyon proving he is a far better midfield game-breaker than a five-eighth playmaker.
The Eagles repeatedly attacked Tate's right side, perhaps testing his knee reconstruction. They put a big gap in the scoreline mid-first half to take the game away from the visitors with two tries down that side to wing Michael Robertson. When Orford intercepted 20m out just before half-time to make it 22-6, the competition points were gone.
Manly controlled things throughout. Their big forwards won the go-forward. Orford was allowed time to deliver the ball or kick. He created five of their 10 tries and converted six of eight kicks at goal.
The Warriors were slow at marker defence and in reaction times after errors and ref's calls, as is their wont. Manly capitalised. The Warriors' kicking game was generally poor, easily covered and their halves were quiet.
The Warriors had little early territory and possession but managed to create two opportunities by going to the air in Manly's goal, both lost via knock-ons, with both wings Manu Vatuvei and Patrick Ah Van having handling troubles and defensive problems last night.
To give themselves a chance, the Warriors needed to complete their sets of six. They couldn't, getting to the kick just three times from seven at the quarter-time mark, conceding three penalties to one.
They were out on their feet and in their own red zone when one of those classic 50/50 refereeing calls went against them. Lance Hohaia was called for losing possession in the play-the-ball when Manly could have been tagged for interference. But the Warriors flagged and Steve Menzies found the fullback Brett Stewart coming at pace for their first try.
The Warriors continued to allow Manly easy ground-gain out of their half. Halfback Orford's kick to goal was good, and after Menzies forced the ball just over the line as the Warriors cover sweated, Michael Robertson forced one just inside. The visitors' one first-half try to Hohaia came after their trademark speed off-loads. But minutes later Lyon off-loaded in Tate's tackle and Robertson scored again.
Basic errors continued from the Warriors and Manly scored through Anthony Watmough twice, Michael Bani and fullback Stewart again, allowing Orford to take a rest 10 minutes early. The home team continued to score, both Robertson and Stewart getting a hat-trick.
The Warriors missed centre Jerome Ropati and the leadership of captain Steve Price when Ruben Wiki was rested. There were few positives in this game, the confidence from the win over Parramatta shot to pieces.
They must regroup mentally to meet Newcastle at Mt Smart on Sunday in what shapes as an opportunity to maintain a 50/50 record and a 100 per cent record at home.
* Sydney Roosters star Braith Anasta yesterday avoided any unwelcome drama ahead of Friday's grudge match against the Bulldogs after escaping a careless high tackle charge.
Anasta was given the green light to line up against his former club at ANZ Stadium after the match review committee deemed the pivot had no charge to answer for his hit on Melbourne winger Steve Turner.