On Saturday, Manly secured a 31-6 victory over the Bulldogs at 4 Pines Park, thanks to the return of superstar Tom Trbojevic and a captain’s knock from Daly Cherry-Evans. The Sea Eagles, under new coach Anthony Seibold, put an end to their seven-game losing streak from the end of the 2022 season with some impressive attacking football.
The match got off to an interesting start when Bulldogs five-eighth Matt Burton kicked out on the full in the 11th minute, giving Manly an opportunity at the line. However, Reed Mahoney of the Bulldogs did well to clean up a Cherry-Evans grubber and defuse the situation. Two minutes later, Burton passed to Viliame Kikau on the last tackle, and the back-rower kicked out on the full, giving Manly another chance with Cherry-Evans forcing a line dropout. The pressure proved too much for Canterbury, and Cherry-Evans scored the first try of the match, following through on a grubber to toe ahead and score.
The Bulldogs hit back in the 21st minute when Mahoney put in a grubber close to the line and collected the rebound off the uprights to score his first try as a Bulldog. Burton’s conversion levelled the scores at 6-6. However, with five minutes remaining in the first half, Bulldogs halfback Kyle Flanagan was sin-binned for a professional foul, and Manly took advantage of the situation, crossing a minute later through Reuben Garrick.
Manly looked set to extend their lead just before half-time, but a massive play by Bulldogs prop Max King stopped them. However, the Sea Eagles needed only three minutes after the break to extend their lead to 18-6 courtesy of a try to Cherry-Evans. And when Cherry-Evans completed his double in the 61st minute after a powerful burst by Taniela Paseka, the Sea Eagles were rocking at 24-6.
Despite being ahead, Manly sent Tom Trbojevic off the field in the 64th minute and replaced him with Kaeo Weekes at fullback. However, a head knock to Lachlan Croker three minutes later saw Trbojevic return to the field. Cherry-Evans then capped off a fantastic display with a field goal and an intercept try to take Manly out by 25 points.
The win was Manly’s first in a season opener since 2013 and will give them plenty of momentum for their round three clash with old rivals Parramatta after a bye next week.