AAP Rugby

Manly prove finals credentials in top four

By AAP Newswire

Manly have reinforced their finals credentials, again proving they have the ability to win tough with a crucial 18-14 victory over Canberra.

In a drama-filled Sunday afternoon at GIO Stadium, the Sea Eagles were reduced to 15 men but made the most of an eight-point try to hold out the fast-finishing Raiders.

Still fourth with two rounds to go, the win moved Manly level with the third-placed Green Machine on 30 points and ahead of South Sydney on for-and-against.

With Joel Thompson (suspected broken arm) and Moses Suli (ankle) injured, Manly had just three interchanges in the second half and were forced to finish the game with Morgan Boyle in the sin-bin.

But they made a number of last-ditch tackles on their line in the game's dying minutes.

"If you want to go anywhere in this competition I believe you have to have that ability to hang in there and hang in there," coach Des Hasler said.

"Today is another sign of that.

"They've always worked pretty hard on this year. It was something that we spoke about in the pre-season and they've really grown into it."

Sunday's win was the kind of match Manly would have dropped last season before Hasler arrived.

The momentum was firmly against them when Canberra led 10-4 early in the second half when Jack Gosiewski intercepted a Josh Hodgson pass on his own line.

He found a sprinting Reuben Garrick on his outside, who planted the ball before copping a late knee in the back from Joseph Leilua to trigger an eight-point try.

After a tense 15-minute period, Jake Trbojevic looked to have put the game beyond doubt when he charged over off a short Api Koroisau ball out of dummy-half.

But Manly's 18-10 lead was reduced to four just eight minutes from fulltime, when Jack Wighton broke through to put Jarrod Croker over before the Sea Eagles held on.

Manly have now had wins in both Melbourne and Canberra this season and face the Storm and Parramatta in bumper finish as they push for the top-four finish.

"The top four, there are advantages to it because you get two shots," Hasler said.

"But apart from that just winning tight games and being able to close them out is good.

"These sorts of games will come in handy because the squad is relatively young when it comes to the semi-finals.

"It is a journey and they have worked hard at it."

Wighton was easily the Raiders' best, having similarly broken free in the lead-up to Canberra's other try through Croker, in the first half.

The Raiders had also felt aggrieved when he was denied earlier, ruled to have dropped the ball over the line after a last-ditch Daly Cherry-Evans tackle.

"It's a game we have to take lessons out of and learn a bit," Canberra coach Ricky Stuart said.

"If you want to keep giving opportunities to good team they are going to beat you and we gave them too many opportunities."

Canberra still theoretically has the best run home of teams fighting for the top four, with Cronulla away and the Warriors at home to finish.

Souths also have the Warriors before facing the Sydney Roosters, while Parramatta are two points back and have Brisbane next week before the round-25 Manly clash.