New Zealand’s injury-riddled ranks were no match for Manly as the Sea Eagles notched their second straight win, a 14-6 result at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
A second half try to Steve Matai pushed the game out of reach for the flagging Warriors, but it was not without controversy as video replays suggested the Manly centre did not ground the football.
The try was awarded despite Matai appearing to have never been in control of the ball after diving on a Kieran Foran grubber kick through the home side’s complacent defensive line.
After a hard-fought first 40 minutes, Manly led 6-0 thanks to an impressive leaping try to Michael Robertson on the left wing and the visitors were already eyeing off their seventh win in nine starts in Auckland.
The Sea Eagles spread it wide with purposeful passing and Robertson finished with a dive that avoided the corner post and an outstretched Warriors defender by millimetres.
It became a contest of who wanted to win more and while the Warriors scored first after the break through Jerome Ropati, they lacked urgency and the ability to complete their sets.
Jacob Lillyman told Grandstand the New Zealanders lacked direction against a gutsy Manly outfit, with captain Simon Mannering and star winger Manu Vatuvei sidelined.
“They were a lot better in the arm wrestle,” he conceded.
“We pushed a few passes and weren’t really organised, especially when we were attacking their end.
“We have lot of things to work on this week.”
Lillyman dismissed any notion that the Warriors were fatigued after their 48-12 thumping of the Broncos on a hot Brisbane afternoon last Sunday.
“We had the seven-day turnaround and we ended up running away with that win,” he said.
“We just lacked direction attacking [Manly's] line and giving them some easy ball.
“Against Manly, who are a tough grinding side, you’ve got to play their style of footy and get into the grind.
“Pushing silly passes and lacking direction, you’re just going to struggle.”
Anthony Watmough was unstoppable going forward and led the Sea Eagles with 163 metres gained and had nine bruising hit-ups, but was also Manly’s worst offender in turnovers (five) and missed tackles (six).
Lance Hohaia and rookie Bill Tupou were consistent in moving New Zealand up the park and the latter was impressive in his NRL debut.
Tupou gained confidence as the game wore on after a nightmare start to his first grade career – he fumbled the ball when gathering up a Sea Eagles clearance kick in after the contest’s opening exchanges.
Filling the injured Vatuvei’s shoes was never going to be an easy task but the 19-year-old made some good runs for the New Zealanders.
Manly was rarely threatened in the first half, despite playing a man down when Ben Farrar was sinbinned for a professional foul on Tupou.
The fleet-footed Warriors teenager made a clean break and Farrar did well to chase him down, but overstepped the mark when he threw Tupou down a second time after the initial tackle.
The home side blew its chance to capitalise on the field position and the extra man when a wild high pass was dropped and Manly regained possession in the next set.
Sea Eagles: 14 (M Robertson, S Matai tries; J Lyon conversion, 2 penalty goals)
Warriors: 6 (J Ropati try; J Maloney conversion)