League: Manly back on top after edging Warriors

By Robert Lowe

Manly climbed back to the top of the National Rugby League table after downing the New Zealand Warriors 20-14 in a tight struggle in Auckland today.

The match was in the balance until the end, but the Warriors' mistakes deep in their own territory finally proved decisive and they conceded two tries in the final eight minutes.

The Sea Eagles have now won seven of their last eight matches and lead the competition on points difference.

However, it was a third successive defeat for the struggling Warriors, as well as a third loss in a row for them at Mt Smart Stadium.

There were plenty of mistakes by both sides, but the Warriors ultimately suffered by making theirs in the wrong area of the field.

They had opened the scoring in the 13th minute, when skipper Steve Price's offload led to winger Manu Vatuvei with the ball on his own half.

Vatuvei, in his first game back after two months out with a leg injury, took off down the side line and beat marker David Williams and fullback Brett Stewart in a 60m run before crossing.

Michael Witt, also returning from an injury spell, added the extras.

Vatuvei was to limp off the field early in the second half.

Manly hit back on the back of a repeat set to send Stewart over in the corner for an unconverted try.

The Sea Eagles began getting some easy field position thanks to unforced errors from the Warriors, who were lucky to reach halftime without conceding further points.

One mistake resulted in Manly five-eighth Jamie Lyon going over, but there was relief for the home side when Lyon was called back for obstruction.

There was another let-off just out from halftime, when Warriors centre Jerome Ropati dropped the ball on his own 20.

Manly shifted the ball quickly to winger Michael Robertson, who dotted down under a challenge from opposite Aidan Kirk.

In a tight decision, video referee Graeme West ruled that Robertson hit the corner flag a split second before forcing the ball.

But early in the second half their luck ran out when another turnover gave the Sea Eagles the platform to attack and second rower Glenn Stewart went over.

The Warriors drew level at 10-10 minutes later when second rower Simon Mannering forced his way over.

With 14 minutes to go, they hit the front again when a Nathan Fien cross-kick was plucked out of the air by Kirk to score.

But another mistake from the kick-off put the Warriors back under pressure, and Brett Stewart again went over, before being called back for an earlier knock-on.

Still, another turnover in their own territory was punished by Manly, with hooker Matt Ballin scoring from dummy half, and Matt Orford adding the extras to edge the Sea Eagles in front 16-14.

Prop Brent Kite added the icing with Manly's fourth try three minutes from time.

- NZPA

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