Manly overcame the loss of captain Daly Cherry-Evans to score a deserved 24-20 win over Canberra at Lottoland on Sunday.
Cherry-Evans - a leading contender for the vacant Maroons captaincy - left the field early in the second half after his right ankle was twisted awkwardly under the body of Elliott Whitehead during a 47th-minute tackle from the Englishman.
He finished the game sitting on the bench with his ankle wrapped in ice.
After the departure of Cherry-Evans, which came with Manly trailing 14-12 on the scoreboard, Lachlan Croker went into halfback and backrower Curtis Sironen into five-eighth.
The composure shown by Manly after losing their skipper, halfback and goal-kicker cannot be under-estimated.
This came after coach Des Hasler has brought Croker into the side, at the expense of Kane Elgey, an hour before kick-off. That decision proved to be a masterstroke.
Match: Sea Eagles v Raiders
Round 7 -
Venue: Lottoland, Sydney
- LIVE PASS
Croker, in his first NRL game in a year and on the same field he suffered a second ACL tear in round eight in 2018, immediately stepped up.
In between being master and commander, Croker scored his second try of the afternoon in the 52nd minute. That was quickly followed by winger Reuben Garrick in the 55th.
The Sea Eagles had lost their captain but they were throwing the ball around with great effect.
Three off-loads led to Croker's try and another two to Garrick's. They were also helped with a 8-2 penalty count in the second half, 13-5 for the match.
Manly staged their first fightback to head to the sheds down two points (14-12) after they had been languishing at 12-0 down.
Under brilliant sunshine and with salt air in their nostrils, the Raiders – or more particularly Jack Wighton – scored two early tries.
It was Wighton's first double in two years, but back then he had the No.1 on his back. He is making a fine fist of No.6 in 2019.
Cherry-Evans was after a quick response and sent a 40-20 over the western touchline. Jorge Taufua was pushed into touch on the second tackle so Manly didn't get the reward but still gained some advantage with Jordan Rapana hurting ribs in the tackle and leaving the field four minutes later.
Then, off the back of three penalties, the Sea Eagles finally cracked the Canberra line. A neat little pass from Corey Waddell put Martin Taupau into space with the line open. It was the Kiwi prop's 13th try in 139 games.
Just to prove his worth, Raiders half Sam Williams also kicked a 40-20 (30th minute) but no points came off it.
Instead, Croker backed up Brad Parker and in his first NRL game in a year, he scored against his old club. Cherry-Evans kicked the conversion right on the halftime siren and the Brookvale faithful stood and applauded.
They were on their feet again when Manly pushed the score out to 24-14, before a consolation try to Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad narrowed the gap.
Sign up for a free NRL Account to access this video and other exclusive content.
Already have an NRL Account?
Not sure? Learn more about NRL Account