Mason Lino went within a fingertip of giving the Vodafone Warriors a dramatic victory against Manly in their opening match at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines at Eden Park today.
The first half of the contest was all cut and thrust, the Vodafone Warriors defending effectively until the weight of possession worked in Manly's favour allowing Dylan Walker to carve through.
That was soon countered when debutant Sam Cook, called in as a late replacement for Shaun Johnson, produced a delightful show and go to scamper 30 metres for a match-levelling try.
Former Vodafone Warrior Jonathan Wright had Manly 8-4 ahead with a try wide out before the home side ignited the crowd with a 50-metre Blake Ayshford bonus point try. With the conversion the Vodafone Warriors were out to an 11-8 lead.
Inside the final three minutes the Sea Eagles were in the bonus point zone themselves with a Curtis Sironen try taking them 15-11 ahead.
There was still time for the Vodafone Warriors to steal victory and they so nearly did. Lino speared through and was in the process of putting the ball down in the five-point zone when he ever so slightly lost control, enough for the would-be try to be rubbed out.
So Manly and Parramatta emerged the winners from the opening matches in the Piha Pool. Later today the Vodafone Warriors taking on the Eels and the Sea Eagles facing St George Illawarra.
Vodafone Warriors 11 (Sam Cook, Blake Ayshford tries; Ata Hingano conversion).
Manly Sea Eagles 15 (Dylan Walker, Jonathan Wright, Curtis Sironen tries; Dylan Walker conversion).