Despite injuries to Rhys Kennedy and Lachlan Croker, the Mounties managed to hold on to win 36-32 against Manly at GIO Stadium on Sunday.
A dominant Mounties pack made light work of the Sea Eagles early in the match before a late flurry of tries for Manly ensured a tight finish.
The Mounties were quick from the blocks, scoring the first try of the game after eight minutes. On the back of some strong work by the forwards, Mitch Barnett barged his way over the line from a set play.
A Brenko Lee intercept near the Mounties’ defending try line almost resulted in a second try. After sprinting down the right edge, Lee offloaded the ball to Ottio who was tackled. Realising they had numbers on the left, Freun, a late call-up for the injured Sisa Waqa, was held up in goal. This didn’t deter the Mounties who moved the ball back to the right of the field to score via Jarrad Kennedy.
Minutes later Kato Ottio continued his good try scoring form with yet another four-pointer to give the Mounties an 18-0 lead after only twenty minutes.
Manly fought hard to stay within touching distance but couldn’t stop the Mounties from continuing their rampage. Deep in their own territory, Manly dropped the ball, gifting the home side an opportunity. The Mounties didn’t hesitate, with Clay Priest breaking through the Sea Eagles’ defence to score.
On the stroke of halftime, Brenko Lee continued his fine performance. The centre placed a grubber kick into the in-goal before successfully chasing the ball to score another try for the Mounties.
The second half started in the same vein as the first. The Mounties right edge continued to be lethal. A line break on the right edge gave the Mounties a three on three situation. An offload to Ottio meant there was only one defender to beat. After having drawn the defender in, Ottio passed to Jarrad Kennedy, who scored his second try of the match to make the score 36-0.
An injury to up and coming five-eighth Lachlan Croker completely changed the match. Croker copped a knock to the head in the second half and had to be taken off the field by a medicab.
Croker’s injury, combined with an early injury to Rhys Kennedy, meant the Mounties were down two players.
Midway through the second half Manly registered their first points of the afternoon when Williams went over the try line. He repeated the trick minutes later to make the score 36-10.
Manly’s resurgence continued when a lovely inside pass to Schuster, sent the fullback under the posts for another try. Tuitahi scored on the right edge minutes later, as the Sea Eagles made the most of some poor Mounties defence.
With five minutes remaining in the match, Manly halfback, Godinet, fooled the Mounties defenders with a dummy pass to score. Tuitahi then scored again to make the score 36-32 with a minute remaining.
However, the Mounties managed to hold their nerve to claim the win and remain top of the ladder.
Mounties 36 (Tries: Barnett, 2 J. Kennedy, Ottio, Priest, Lee Conversions: M. Kennedy 6/6) defeated Sea Eagles 32 (Tries: 2 Williame, Schuster, 2 Tuitahi, Godinet Conversions: Pratt 4/6)