For the first time in 21 years the Warriors have won six games in a row, after a Dallin Watene-Zelezniak hat-trick helped them overcome a dogged Sea Eagles side 29-22 on Friday night.
In front of 24,112 at the Warriors' traditional home in Auckland – renamed Daniel Anderson Stadium for Round 25 in honour of their former coach who suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury late last year – the home side were forced to overcome a 22-16 deficit at the break to earn a victory which ensures they will remain third heading into Round 26.
Earlier both sides went on first-half runs which saw them score 16 unanswered points, but with Manly edging out an advantage thanks to Jason Saab's hat-trick and an earlier Jake Arthur strike.
The Sea Eagles were ultimately left to rue a series of missed opportunities late in the game, with the defeat all but ending their hopes of playing finals in 2023.
After being a late call-up to start at five-eighth, Arthur made a dream start when he bounced through two would-be tackles and dived over from close range, but that joy would prove to be short lived as the Warriors promptly ran in 16 points in the next 17 minutes.
Jake Arthur try 1st minute
First captain Tohu Harris got over for his third try in as many games, before Watene-Zelezniak took it upon himself to give the hosts the lead with a pair of special tries.
The first was a trademark flying finish in the corner, before he embarked on a monster run that left Arthur flat on the deck on his way to the line.
Tohu Harris try 7th minute
But whatever the Warriors could do with ball in hand, so too could the Sea Eagles it seemed, as they then had their turn at running in three tries, during a period which saw both sides also have four-pointers ruled out by the Bunker.
Saab was responsible for all three with near carbon copy breaks down the right flank as Daly Cherry-Evans and Sea Eagles took full advantage of some leaky edge defence.
Saab's third three minutes from the half was followed by a sideline conversion from Reuben Garrick which put him into fifth on Manly's all-time scorers list and gave his side a 22-16 lead at the half.
Jason Saab try 37th minute
Watene-Zelezniak's third and a Adam Pompey sideline conversion tied scores at 22-all and they stayed that way until the 73rd minute when Marata Niukore – who was playing in the centres after Marcelo Montoya's 67th minute injury forced a reshuffle – was put into a gap by Shaun Johnson and ran 35 metres for the match winner.
It came just minutes after Garrick missed a go-ahead penalty from out wide, before Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad hit Garrick in mid-air in a collision which didn't draw a penalty, due to the bouncing ball negating the mid-air tackle rule.
The Sea Eagles had their chances late but couldn't find a way through, before Johnson kicked a field goal to ice the win at the death.
Match: Warriors v Sea Eagles
Round 25 -
Venue: Go Media Stadium, Auckland
- The Warriors have won six in a row for the first time since 2002 and are assured of ending Round 25 in third place on the Telstra Premiership ladder.
- Bunty Afoa was put on report for a late tackle in the opening five minutes.
- Wayde Egan left the field on 62 minutes with an injury concern but was able to return, while Marcelo Montoya followed five minutes later but also returned for the end of the game.
- With his second conversion of the match Reuben Garrick became the fifth-highest scorer in Sea Eagles history.
- Warriors winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has scored 19 tries in his past 12 games.
- The Warriors have won six from eight at Go Media Stadium this season.
Play of the Game
While fans are used to his spectacular flying finishes in the corner, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak's 20th try of the season was something different. A huge fend on Jake Arthur started what looked like an unlikely try-scoring opportunity, with the veteran beating no less than five Manly defenders on his way to the line.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak try 16th minute
What They Said
"We were brave, we were tough, they had a bit more field position second half and had a couple of decisions go their way, so that was probably the difference. We were missing 10 players who have played first grade this year, we have got eight players from our best 17 out." – Sea Eagles coach Anthony Seibold
Sea Eagles: Round 25
"The first half we didn't defend well at all, we had a real good talk at half-time and I heard a couple senior players saying 'we are not going to chase this game, we are going to grind our way to victory' and we had a shutout, zero points from them in the second half. The second half, really proud, we were on our try-line quite a bit there. We made our own luck defensively in the second half." – Warriors coach Andrew Webster
Warriors: Round 25
The Warriors enjoy a third-straight game on New Zealand soil when they host the Dragons on Friday night in Round 26, with Mitch Barnett set to be back on deck and Te Maire Martin a chance of being in the frame for selection. The Sea Eagles have a nine-day turnaround before facing the Bulldogs at Accor Stadium.