A Daly Cherry-Evans field-goal in golden point has handed the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles a 21-20 victory over an injury-hit Canberra Raiders outfit at Lottoland on Sunday afternoon.
Jarrod Croker kicked a penalty goal after the full-time siren to lock things up at 20-apiece and send the second of the Raiders’ last two matches with Manly into golden point.
Having been brought undone by a Dylan Waker golden-point penalty goal when the sides last met in Canberra, it was the Raiders’ turn to get one back.
But a Junior Paulo knock-on in Raiders territory early in golden point afforded the home side optimal field position, Cherry-Evans taking the opportunity with both hands to bang over a match-winning field-goal.
Despite being two big bodies down after props Shannon Boyd and Dunamis Lui limped off with knee injuries early in the opening term, the Raiders launched a stunning second-half comeback to claw themselves back from being 20-6 down at half-time.
The visitors came tantalisingly close to pulling off a miracle win when trailing 20-18 with three minutes on the clock, Elliott Whitehead crossing on the right edge before the try was denied.
Things looked on the up for the Raiders from the get-go in the second stanza when they marched up-field off the back of a penalty before earning a repeat set on Manly’s line.
A passage of hot-potato footy resulted in Jordan Rapana pinching his 12th try of the season to push ahead of Melbourne’s Suliasi Vunivalu and again become the competition’s highest try-scorer.
The 27-year-old dived over in the 45th minute just inside the right-edge corner post before Croker put the ball over the black dot as Canberra made it an eight-point ball-game at 20-12.
The Green Machine went close to making another breakthrough when five-eighth Blake Austin delivered the Steeden to the heavens moments later, the Sea Eagles allowing the ball to bounce as Rapana cleaned up.
The winger linked with Joey Leilua on the inside but the attack was quickly subdued.
Another promising Canberra attack was put to bed 61 minutes in when the Raiders weren’t able to capitalise on two penalties on the home side’s line.
What Manly could not contain was a rocketing Rapana rollick, the try-scoring machine splitting the hosts’ defence 25 metres out from the Raiders’ line in the 70th minute to leave every chaser in his wake and snare his second four-pointer.
Croker put the ball between the sticks as the Raiders reduced the deficit to 20-18.
He would ever-so-calmly knock over the equalising penalty goal after the siren before Manly again broken Raiders hearts.
The Raiders’ trip north didn’t get off to an ideal start with Boyd limping off with a knee injury four minutes into the contest after getting crunched in an awkward tackle.
Lui’s injury added to the Raiders’ injury list later in the opening half when he succumbed to a knee injury of his own, meaning the men in green would have to see out the vast majority of the game with two big frames down.
The Sea Eagles exposed the Raiders’ weakened outfit when Walker crossed on the right edge six minutes in for the opening try of the game before Matthew Wright added the extras to hand the hosts a 6-0 lead.
Manly’s Brenton Lawrence spilled his lollies in the first hit-up of the following kick-off to afford the Green Machine a golden opportunity on the Sea Eagles’ try-line, but the Raiders weren’t able to break through.
The Sydney-siders tightened their grip on the game 14 minutes in when Cherry-Evans poked a wily grubber into the Raiders’ in-goal area, a stampede of Manly defenders denying Austin in his attempt to burrow his way out.
Ricky Stuart’s men were able to resist the hosts in the ensuing set before wrestling back momentum through a 60-metre try in the 17th minute iced by their Number 6.
A Leilua offload put Rapana in space on the right edge, the Kiwi international hurtling down-field before linking with Austin on the inside who would race away for the Raiders’ first try of the game.
Croker made no mistake from the tee as the Raiders levelled the scores at six-apiece.
The skipper then dropped the ball in a play-the-ball deep in Manly’s defence before the Sea Eagles capitalised through an unstoppable Marty Taupau hit-up.
The Test front-rower barraged his way over to the right of the posts 28 minutes in before Wright banged over the conversion to hand his side a 12-6 buffer.
Trent Barrett’s men again tightened the screws deep in Canberra territory, rolling forward with an impressive set capped off with a Walker grubber which would see Jack Wighton forced to run the ball dead.
The Sea Eagles took advantage of the forced goal-line drop-out when winger Jorge Taufua found the white line on the left edge in the ensuing set five minutes out from the half-time break as Manly pushed 16-6 ahead.
Wright faded the kick across the uprights but Manly would pounce again just moments later.
Joe Tapine lost control of the ball just past halfway before Walker swooped on the crumbs, the centre tearing away to put a grubber to boot that Cherry-Evans would collect before dotting down.
Wright’s conversion wrapped the woodwork before Manly took a 20-6 lead into the break.
The Raiders’ spectacular against-the-odds second half would follow before the Sea Eagles collected the two premiership points.
The Raiders will travel to Bathurst in Round 14 where they will face the Penrith Panthers with an eye on three wins on the trot.