MANLY 22 WESTS TIGERS 18
Second-half burst ... Daly Cherry-Evans of the Sea Eagles celebrates after scoring a try. Photo: Getty Images
A LATE spurt, in true Tigers fashion, should not alter the need for lessons to be learnt. The Tigers would be wise to keep a video of this match and put it somewhere they can easily reach it.
In playing the premiers in round two, they have been given a lesson in what it is to play like premiers. While the Tigers were the more patient team in the first half, as soon as the Sea Eagles sniffed blood, they struck, scoring 16 points in the first eight minutes after half-time to steal the contest away.
King of the jungle ... Jamie Lyon fends off Tigers centre Chris Lawrence last night. Photo: Getty Images
''I don't want to show too much character this early in the year,'' coach Geoff Toovey mused. Too late. Ruthless teams win titles. The Tigers are yet to be that team. Manly obviously were - and clearly still are.
When Manly put the foot down, their opponents could not go with them; certainly not without their best defender, Gareth Ellis, whose departure one minute into the second half started the rot. ''It started quickly for us with Gareth; we had a couple of mistakes, and all of a sudden we were in quicksand,'' said Tigers coach Tim Sheens.
So Manly have won their opening matches of the season, against their grand-final opponents from last year and then a team many expect to play in the decider this year. It's still early, but surely those who drew a line through the Sea Eagles after the departure of coach Des Hasler will be hoping they did so in pencil.
Tigers no match for Sea Eagles
Manly take down Wests Tigers in their round two NRL match at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty
Just consider Daly Cherry-Evans, who has cast aside the fear of second-year syndrome in the second round. His long-range try, dummying twice and showing more speed than he is noted for, as well as his previous assist, have shown that he has not only picked up where he left off last year, he might even have improved.
Just don't ask Toovey, who who has picked up where Hasler left off, even down to sounding like Hasler, who could play down the talents of the Harlem Globetrotters. ''We can always talk up those young halves, and they're fantastic players, but let's not go past the old blokes here too,'' Toovey said.
The Tigers have been the premiership favourites, at least prior to last night. And they showed they could be a patient team, judging by the way they went about their business in the first half.
The most exciting thing about them was the fact they were boring, bar their late attempt to secure another miracle victory against the Sea Eagles in Gosford. Boring is something they have never been; in attack, defeat, or the last-gasp lunacy that the folks at Leichhardt Oval witnessed last Sunday. Sometimes, though, they need to be.
Like South Sydney, three minutes of mayhem largely ended their prospects. But unlike Souths, those three minutes occurred at the start of the second half, rather than the end of it.
First, English forward Ellis suffered the mother of all corks; a collision which ended his night. Next, fullback Tom Humble lost possession on his own line, handing the Sea Eagles the ball with their best defender nobbled. Cherry-Evans put prop Jason King on Benji Marshall a few metres out and there was only one result.
''He must be pretty good, putting me over for tries,'' King said.
The Tigers were equally stunned after the front-rower's try. A penalty goal was followed by Cherry-Evans's try from his own half, and the game had been wrested away from the Tigers. Second-rower Adam Blair's first-half score, against the club he went to war with for Melbourne late last season, was a distant memory.
How quickly it all turned against the Tigers; how quickly we wrote off the premiers, prematurely.
MANLY 22 (D Cherry-Evans J King T Williams tries J Lyon 5 goals) bt WESTS TIGERS 18 (A Blair J Reddy B Ryan tries B Marshall 3 goals) at Bluetongue Stadium. Referees: Gerard Sutton, Ben Cummins. Crowd: 17,532.