Undermanned Sea Eagles go down swinging in loss to Sydney Roosters

Manly have kept their pride intact but points proved the biggest issue as their makeshift NRL side were outgunned 20-10 by the Sydney Roosters.

After the most dramatic and controversial lead up to a game this season, Manly managed to stay in the game despite seven of their players boycotting their rainbow jersey.

For all the expectations of a Roosters flogging, Trent Robinson’s men were outscored 4-2 in the second half as they went tryless against the depleted Sea Eagles following the break.

Still they did what they needed to do by controlling the match, with their biggest concern being a second concussion in 15 days for Lindsay Collins.

The two competition points were also vital, lifting them clear into the top eight as they face the hardest run home of all teams.

And they did it all against a Manly team playing full of passion.

A group of Manly fans hold up a sign reading "I love Manly, love is love."
The Manly jersey boycott threw the rugby league world into chaos. (Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

The Sea Eagles gave every indication they were up for the match, pushing Joseph Suaalii over the sideline in the first set.

Their energy was immense, they hit hard and for no second could their zeal be questioned.

Late in the match newcomer Zac Fulton pulled off a tremendous one-on-one tackle on James Tedesco to force a line dropout under the grandstand named after his grandfather Bob.

Down 20-6 with 13 minutes to go, Manly even gave themselves a chance to get back into the game but skipper Daly Cherry-Evans was denied a try on a bobbled grounding.

Cherry-Evans put himself in everything, regularly popping up to break down defensive plays while also at one stage marking a ball on the wing.

Jake Trbojevic made 34 tackles and didn’t miss one, as one of three Sea Eagles players returning straight out of COVID-19 isolation.

Team stats

Rookie winger Alfred Smalley eventually bagged his first career NRL try in the final minutes, adding respect to the scoreboard.

But the Sea Eagles’ inexperience was also clear, particularly in the first half as Roosters stars Tedesco, Joey Manu and Daniel Tupou dominated.

Fiji Silktails graduate and NRL debutant Pio Seci was caught out twice on the right wing in the first 10 minutes, with Tupou scoring once on him early.

With three outside backs among their boycotters, Manly’s edge defence suffered.


Second-rower Nat Butcher scored one Roosters try when he ran onto a left-footed Tedesco grubber-kick, while another came when Manu crashed over.

Manu’s try was a cruel blow to Manly, coming after a kick off bounced back into the Roosters’ hands after Cherry-Evans had put Andrew Davey over to make it 12-6.

The result puts the Roosters two points clear of Manly in the fight for the final spot in the top eight, with a far superior for-and-against.

By the end of the round, it’s possible the Sea Eagles could be as low as 11th on the ladder.

Ultimately, Manly’s pride remained intact. But their best shot at boosting their hopes of a top-eight finish was lost.