Sea Eagles 38
Yet again for the Warriors, it's a case of two steps forward and one back.
After all the promise of their gutsy effort against the Cowboys last week, the Auckland team couldn't reach those heights again, falling to a 38-32 defeat to the Sea Eagles.
Chasing consecutive wins for the first time in 2021, they were undone by another severe second-half fade, as they conceded five unanswered tries, helping Manly to recover from an eight-point halftime deficit.
Just when the game looked gone the Warriors had a late flurry, but time was always against them, and the Sea Eagles closed out the match.
Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic put on a masterclass, with two tries and four try assists, breaking the Warriors defence open at will.
The performance revealed the limitations and inexperience of this Warriors team. They lacked punch in the forwards without Ben Murdoch-Masila and Eliesa Katoa. Starting prop Kane Evans was ineffective, while Josh Curran was targeted relentlessly, with three handling errors.
Katoa came out of the 17 named earlier in the week, while Euan Aitken was also cut. Reece Walsh was used off the bench, with Chanel Harris-Tavita given a start.
The Warriors had some good moments on attack, but their fifth-tackle options were predictable and conservative, when a bit more adventure may have allowed some profit.
They led 20-12 with 35 minutes to play, before everything unravelled as Manly crossed five times in 17 minutes.
The Sea Eagles have had a good recent run, though they are a shadow of the team that was so dominant either side of the turn of the decade, with four grand final appearances in seven years.
Harris-Tavita had the ideal return, embarrassing the static Manly goalline defence to slide through, after being set up by the deception of Kodi Nikorima.
But Manly's opening try was even softer, as Trbojevic strolled through some lethargic efforts close to the ruck, following a Daly Cherry-Evans 40-20.
It soon got worse, as the Kangaroos fullback eluded four would-be tacklers in a 20-metre run to the line. Trbojevic is a special player, but the lack of defensive intensity was an early worry for the Warriors.
Manly enjoyed a period of dominance, though lacked finesse, with basic errors stalling their momentum.
Against the odds the Warriors worked their way back into the match.
A Nikorima penalty goal – after a Manly escort play - took them ahead, before Roger Tuivasa-Sheck reminded why he will be missed so much in 2022. His strong hit-up gave the Warriors momentum, before a half-break and a snappy pass to Nikorima sent them deep into Sea Eagles territory.
Curran snaffled the loose ball from the resultant bomb, but the try was all about the Warriors' captain.
But the visitors bombed a certain try soon after the break, as after a sustained spell on attack, Nikorima did well to create space before throwing his pass to no one.
The gravity of that error was underlined when the home side rumbled 100 metres down field, before Morgan Harper crossed in the corner.
Instead of a potential 14-point deficit, the Sea Eagles were given a chance to take flight. They went close, spilling the ball over the try line, before Jason Saab made no mistake, after a costly Curran mistake.
A Reuben Garrick try extended their lead, before Saab completed his hat-trick with two tries in the space of three minutes, as the Sea Eagles were ruthless on both edges.
Harris-Tavita gave the Warriors some hope with a 67th-minute try – from a scramble following a bomb – before Walsh ran off Tohu Harris to reduce the deficit to six, setting up some late excitement, but it was too late.
Sea Eagles 38 (Jason Saab 3, Tom Trbojevic 2, Morgan Harper, Rueben Garrick tries; Garrick 4 cons, pen)
Warriors 32 (Chanel Harris-Tavita 2, Tohu Harris, Josh Curran, Reece Walsh tries; Kodi Nikorima 5 cons, pen)