In his milestone 300th game, Daly Cherry-Evans led the Manly Sea Eagles to a hard-fought victory, overcoming some tense moments in their six-point win over St George Illawarra. Manly clinched a 24-18 triumph at WIN Stadium on Saturday night — a win that keeps them tantalisingly close, but still just outside of the top eight.
As the clock ticked down, a thrilling finish was put on the cards as Tyrell Sloan clawed back a try for the Dragons with a mere 10 minutes remaining on the clock. With mere seconds left in the match, the Dragons fought hard, their desperation evident as they endeavoured for a final try until Manly’s Tolu Koula emphatically tackled Mikaele Ravalawa out of bounds.
Considering the Dragons‘ possession and field advantage, by rights the game was theirs to lose — after all, they ventured into Manly’s red zone almost 50 times. Their failure to convert any of these opportunities spoke more about their lacking attack strategy than it did about Manly’s defence.
As tensions rose during the match, interim coach Ryan Carr was visibly frustrated, continuously hitting the wall of the press box at WIN Stadium. His ire likely increased when Jack De Belin received a sin bin stint for a purported hip-drop tackle on Christian Tuipulotu in the latter portion of the second half. De Belin’s deliverance of a hip drop tackle, however, wasn’t as clear-cut as it first seemed.
Turning our attention to Cherry-Evans, the stalwart Sea Eagle further etched his name in the annals of the club’s history by joining an exclusive club of players accomplishing 300 games. This is an exceptional accomplishment for a 34-year-old who is still playing with the vigour of a decade younger. His impressive game included a magnificent cutout pass which allowed Jason Saab to secure a 50-metre try, as well as some deep and tactical kicks that often bailed the Sea Eagles out of trouble.
The next few weeks will test Cherry-Evans as Manly prepares to confront the Roosters, Penrith, and the Warriors on their home turf in Auckland. Winning these three crunch games would undoubtedly prove Manly’s worthiness for a September finals berth.
Off the field, the admiration for Cherry-Evans transcends the game. Referee Chris Butler and the halfback had a peaceful discourse during half-time. They discussed the penalty count and Butler took the time to explain his rulings — a gesture greatly appreciated by Cherry-Evans. Their friendly interaction ended with Butler’s open invitation: “Anything else, come and have a chat”.
The esteemed Wayne Pearce journeyed to Wollongong to personally congratulate Cherry-Evans post-game. Other noteworthy mentions include Matt Lodge with his strong play in the early stages of the game, while Reuben Garrick narrowly missed what should’ve been a very achievable try in the second half, causing him to hand the ball to Lachie Croker who promptly lost it.