Manly edges Cowboys in dour contest
Manly leapfrogged North Queensland into the top four after grinding out an 8-6 win in Townsville on Saturday night.by NRL
Manly leapfrogged North Queensland into the top four after grinding out an 8-6 win in Townsville on Saturday night.
Both teams were stoic in defence in the tight contest, where a Jamie Lyon penalty proved to be the difference.
The Sea Eagles now jump over the Cowboys and Brisbane into fourth spot, but will need to wait until the Broncos play Canberra in the national capital on Sunday to see if they can stay there.
The Sydney team started strongest and looked to have grabbed the first try of the night in the 11th minute when Tony Williams pounced on a Kieran Foran grubber.
But the video referee judged Anthony Watmough had impeded Cowboys defender Glenn Hall.
After an extended period of possession, the defending champions eventually opened the scoring on 25 minutes, Foran skipping past a slipping Dallas Johnson from the scrum base.
The try seemed to spark some life into the Cowboys attack and they had two scoring opportunities in as many minutes from the boot and stunning run by full-back Matt Bowen.
Starting off the second half as they finished the first, the Cowboys came out strongest in the second half.
Kane Linnett took advantage of a miscommunication between David Williams and Daly Cherry-Evans, the Manly pair not making any attempt to catch a Bowen bomb in the 52nd minute.
The ball bounced off Cherry-Evans' leg and Linnett beat the two Manly players to put the Cowboys on an even pegging.
Manly looked to have taken the lead again through Brett Stewart, after the full-back fought his way across the line in the 63rd minute, but the video referee again intervened saying centre Steve Matai had impeded Brent Tate.
But the Sea Eagles did take the lead four minutes later, Cowboys back-rower Gavin Cooper penalised for being offside in front of the posts and Lyon opted to kick the two points.
The Cowboys had a chance to score at the death, but were penalised for being offside while trying desperately to get across the try line.
Manly will have to see whether the match review committee charges Darcy Lussick with a high elbow on Ashton Sims in the 45th minute, while Matai went off the field injured in the 67th minute with an ankle injury.
The Cowboys have their own injury concerns, with starting half-back Michael Morgan leaving the field with a shoulder injury in the 71st minute.
Manly coach Geoff Toovey was proud of his team's defensive effort, especially when the penalty count was eight to two against them at one point.
"I'm really proud of our boys and how they defended and it was worthy of a semi-final and I think both sides will probably be there hopefully at the end of the year," he said.
Captain Jamie Lyon agreed that the intensity was up to semi-final standard and was the level they needed to be hitting with four matches remaining.
"That's the football you've got to play at this time of year if you want to play in the semis and play against the good sides you have to play that grinding game every week and it's good we got back to that grinding way I think," Lyon said.
Cowboys captain Matt Scott said they had frustrated themselves in attack, not playing at their best in a game they were capable of winning.
"We had too many dropped balls and the ends of sets weren't quite on the money so I think that was the issue, we need to put a bit more pressure on them to tire them defensively and the joy comes off the back of that," he said.
Toovey said injury concerns to Steve Matai and Anthony Watmough were not serious while Henry did not believe the shoulder injury to half-back Michael Morgan would require scans.
Sea Eagles: 8 (K Foran try; J Lyon 2 goals)
Cowboys: 6 (K Linnett try; J Thurston goal)
Source: ABC Sport
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