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Vodafone Warriors winger Ngani Laumape about to score his first half try in today's NRL clash against Manly. Photo: Photosport

For the second week on end the Vodafone Warriors have missed an opportunity to climb into the top eight after losing 12-27 to Manly in today's 22nd-round NRL match at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford.

The equation was exactly the same as it was before they faced Cronulla last Saturday: Win and they would edge into the top eight.

But with winger David Williams scoring a hat-trick and fullback Brett Stewart a double the Sea Eagles resisted the Vodafone Warriors advances in a five tries to two win.

The final 15-point margin disguises the fact the Vodafone Warriors were right in the contest despite a lot of numbers running against them.

Possession, position and penalties were loaded in Manlys favour ion the first half. The home side had 23 sets in possession and a 4-1 advantage in the penalty count while the Vodafone Warriors had only 16 sets in possession and yet Manly was only 10-0 ahead after half an hour.

On the 32nd minute the margin was cut to 6-10 as the Vodafone Warriors put together a superbly-constructed set play try for Ngani Laumape from a scrum. It featured Manu Vatuvei sweeping around all the way from the left edge to pop up wide on the right to set Laumape up for his fifth NRL try.

Having emerged from the half with minimal damage, the Vodafone Warriors needed to grind it out in the opening stanza of the second half. Instead the Sea Eagles struck again in the 46th and 57th minutes Williams completing a hat-trick to stretch to 20-6 and yet there was reason to believe the Vodafone Warriors would stage a recovery.

The confidence was rewarded when Johnson scored and converted his own try in the 61st minute, the margin down to 12-20 with plenty of time left.

Just as swiftly, though, the up-tempo Sea Eagles were at it again. They took aim at the Vodafone Warriors' left side regularly and found joy once more with fullback Brett Stewart gliding across for his second try.

At 12-24, the Vodafone Warriors kept probing but were eventually undone by a short goal-line drop out which officials deemed didn't travel 10 metres. The evidence suggested there was some doubt, which was no consolation as Jamie Lyon kicked the resulting penalty to take Manly 14 points clear.

A Daly Cherry-Evans field goal completed the scoring although the Vodafone Warriors went close off a bomb in the final seconds. Simon Mannering pounced as the ball went loose but a Kevin Locke knock-on in the contest on the kick ruled the would-be try out.

Provisional statistics underlined the magnitude of the challenge with the Vodafone Warriors having just 32 sets in the whole match while Manly had a healthy quota of 45.

With limited opportunities with the ball, not one Vodafone Warriors forward made more than 100 metres. The only 100-metre men were fullback Kevin Locke, centre Konrad Hurrell and wingers Laumape and Vatuvei.

The defensive workhorses were predictably Nathan Friend with 47 tackles, Mannering with 36 and Todd Lowrie 30. They also had the distinction of no missed tackles in their counts.

While not without hope throughout the contest, the Vodafone Warriors were given a searching examination by Manly's attack in what was the club's sixth consecutive victory.

The result meant the Vodafone Warriors remained 10th on 22 points, still two points adrift of eighth-placed Canberra, which has an inferior points for and against differential.

The Vodafone Warriors return home on Monday to prepare for their 23rd-round home game against Penrith next Sunday, August 18 (4.00pm kick-off NZT).


Match details:

At Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford

Manly Sea Eagles 27 (David Williams 3, Brett Stewart 2 tries; Jamie Lyon 2 conversions, penalty; Daly Cherry-Evans field goal).

Vodafone Warriors 12 (Ngani Laumape, Shaun Johnson tries; Shaun Johnson 2 conversions).

Halftime: 10-6 Sea Eagles.

Referees: Jared Maxwell and Brett Suttor.

Crowd: 12,090.

Vodafone Warriors: Kevin Locke; Ngani Laumape, Konrad Hurrell, Dane Nielsen, Manu Vatuvei; Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson; Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Jacob Lillyman; Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering (c); Elijah Taylor. Interchange: Suaia Matagi, Ben Matulino, Todd Lowrie, Dominique Peyroux.
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