The Manly Sea Eagles are through to the third week of the finals series after thrashing the Sydney Roosters 42-6 in Mackay.
Coming up against an injury-hit Roosters side, who were forced to play fourth-string option Ben Marschke in the crucial No.9 jersey tonight, Manly were the red hot favourites and took little time to show just why.
Courtesy of another Tom Trbojevic masterclass, the superstar fullback opened tonight’s match, with the Sea Eagles notching the first three tries of the game before the Roosters responded.
After a quiet game during Manly’s loss to the Storm last week, Trbojevic hit back at the critics with a starring performance that included two tries, three linebreaks and one assist in just 65 minutes of action.
But a four-try to one first-half performance from Manly was all that was needed as the Sea Eagles barely broke a sweat all night while not conceding a single point in the second 40 minutes.
In the eyes of rugby league great Phil Gould, the task was simply too much for the Roosters.
The Tricolours tonight were missing the likes of Jake Friend, Boyd Cordner, Joey Manu, Brett Morris and Sam Verrills to name a few, in which all were either forced into retirement or injured during the year. First-choice hooker Sam Verrills was also out, having been controversially suspended during the week.
“They’re (Roosters) all hobbling, it’s that time of year,” Gould said in commentary for Nine.
“Everyone’s sore and everyone’s broken, but that’s the test of finals football – to drag your broken body out into the battle and keep going.
“It’s been a long tough season. They’ve lost so many through injuries, retirements.
“It looks like it’s become a little bit too much for them tonight.”
The win for Manly sets up a preliminary final clash with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Rabbitohs famously came out victorious when the two sides clashed in the 2019 finals series.
“I know the scoreboard ticked over a little bit in the first half,” Manly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans told Nine after the match.
“But it wasn’t even about that. It was about our intentions.
“We carried the ball hard and defended well. That’s the stuff that finals footy is about. We showed a bit of that tonight.
“The defensive effort – we only kept them to six points with is a nice feeling.
“We have a lot to work on. We still need to keep our heads focused. That’s the biggest thing for us.
“Not getting ahead of ourselves. We have to, I guess, pat ourselves on the back. We are into a prelim which is a great feeling. Again we want to achieve more than that.”