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Manly hold off Warriors in grand final rematch thriller

Date
Omar Slaimankhel of the Warriors tries to break through the Manly defence.

Omar Slaimankhel of the Warriors tries to break through the Manly defence. Photo: Getty Images

Manly have held off a New Zealand Warriors' comeback to start their NRL title defence under new coach Geoff Toovey with a 26-20 win in a thriller in Auckland.

MATCH STATS

Lock Glenn Stewart scored the decisive try with eight minutes to go in a rematch of the 2011 grand final, although Jamie Lyon's missed conversion kept Warriors' hopes alive in the dying stages.

The Sea Eagles, who began the match at Eden Park in champagne style, offloading at will as they attacked out wide, grabbed three early tries to race to a 16-0 lead after the first quarter.

But in a highly entertaining clash played in glorious sunshine, the Warriors, under their own new coach in Brian McClennan, hit back to get within two points before Stewart dotted down.

Both teams lost a Kiwi centre during the match - Warrior Jerome Ropati (ankle), who missed most of the last season because of a knee reconstruction, and Manly's Steve Matai (wrist).

Winger David Williams, in his first NRL match since breaking his neck just before last year's playoffs, got Manly on the board in the eighth minute.

He was then turned provider with a pinpoint infield chip four minutes later that Daly Cherry-Evans collected to dot down.

When Matai added a simple third for his 50th NRL try midway through the half, it looked like the Warriors were in for a long afternoon.

Instead, it was a signal for a home fightback, with young prodigy Shaun Johnson the catalyst.

A jink and then a bounce pass set up a try for winger Manu Vatuvei in the 31st minute, before Johnson himself beat four defenders from five metres out to grab the second five minutes before the break.

The comeback was briefly halted early in the second half when second rower Tony Williams, who was a dominant figure on the Manly left, forced his way over.

Warriors fullback Kevin Locke, who dropped a bomb that led to the try, made amends when he scored to drag the home side back to 22-14.

With 13 minutes to go, Manly hooker Matt Ballin was sin-binned after coming in late as the second man in a tackle on Lewis Brown.

From the tap penalty, Vatuvei grabbed his second try, but that was close as the Warriors got.

MANLY 26 (D Cherry-Evans S Matai G Stewart D Williams T Williams tries J Lyon 3 goals) bt WARRIORS 20 (M Vatuvei 2 S Johnson K Locke tries J Maloney 2 goals) at Eden Park. Referee: Tony Archer, Ben Cummins.

AAP

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