Crunch time … Tony Williams. Photo: Getty Images
GOLD COAST forward Nate Myles felt there were periods in Saturday night's match against Manly when the defending premiers were in third gear, yet they still posted a comfortable victory at Skilled Park.
The Sea Eagles should crank the engine up a few gears for their qualifying final against Canterbury on Friday night in Sydney.
They raced to a 24-4 lead against the Titans early in the second half and never looked like losing, despite conceding two tries to the home side in the final 23 minutes.
The 24-16 win secured Manly a top-four berth in a season disrupted by injuries and suspensions, ensuring they will survive in the premiership race even if they lose to the minor premiers this week.
Only former Australian Test winger David Williams (knee) is out injured, although rugged back-rower Anthony Watmough missed most of Saturday's match after aggravating a neck injury.
Fullback Brett Stewart is back to his blistering best, halves Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans are bamboozling their opponents and centre Jamie Lyon is in the best form of his career.
Add an all-star forward pack featuring Jason King, Matt Ballin, Brent Kite, Tony Williams, Glenn Stewart and Watmough, and it's easy to see why the Sea Eagles are premiership favourites.
''In some patches they were in second and third gear,'' Myles said after the Titans ended a disappointing season four points outside the top eight. ''They're a brilliant side and you can see they can just turn it on from nothing. You can win the play-the-ball on them and they can come at you and make you look silly.''
Manly's only problem is a lack of killer instinct. In the second halves of their past three matches, they have scored 10 points and conceded 34.
''We're trying to play our best footy for 80 minutes. I don't think it's a concern,'' Cherry-Evans said. ''It's hard to stay motivated when you're ahead by such good leads. We're getting wins and that's the main thing.''
The hunger for another premiership ring burns strongly in Cherry-Evans, who has played every game for Manly this season, and his halves partner Foran, who set up two tries and scored one against the Titans.
''There's always expectations on ourselves,'' Cherry-Evans said. ''Me and Kieran are highly competitive. We always want the best result possible and that's the premiership. We won't settle for anything less.''
It's an ominous warning that the Sea Eagles won't be surrendering the premiership without a fight.