Manly avoid another collapse, see off late Storm emerges

Manly have defended their unwanted status as the NRL’s kings of capitulation to hold on for a nerve-wracking 26-20 win over old rivals Melbourne.

Beaten four times this year after holding double-figure leads, the Sea Eagles looked at risk of suffering the same fate again on Friday night at Brookvale.

But this time they were able to hang on, defending 14 straight tackles on their line in the final three minutes to claim victory and move back into the NRL’s top eight.

It marked a happy debut for teenager Lehi Hopoate, who threw the last pass for a crucial late Tommy Talau try that gave Manly a 26-14 lead with 10 minutes to go.

At that point, the hosts looked as if they had done enough to win in after previously leading 12-0 in the first half and 18-6 early in the second.

But the Storm refused to go away.

Jahrome Hughes combined with Tyran Wishart to break Manly open with five minutes left, before the Sea Eagles’ last-ditch tryline defense allowed them to hold on.

Manly have now beaten premiership heavyweights Penrith, the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne this year, but still sit eighth on the ladder after fading late in other games.

Jake Trbojevic crashes over for Manly in the home win over the Storm. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

It started well on Friday night, when they dominated field position and territory against a Storm side missing Ryan Papenhuyzen and Cameron Munster.

Ben Trbojevic scored first when Luke Brooks put him into a hole, before Talau bagged a try moments later when he slid over the line from the next set.

But as has often been the case this year for the Sea Eagles, they let Melbourne back into the match just before halftime when Eliesa Katoa pounced on a Hughes grubberkick.

Jake Trbojevic was able to make it a 12-point game again after the break when Daly Cherry-Evans put him in under the posts.

Still the Storm always looked threatening, with Katoa and Sua Fa’alogo playing on the front foot down their right edge.

They got one try back in that fashion when Fa’alogo caught Brooks out defensively and sent Nick Meaney over.

Manly were looking vulnerable, opting to throw the ball around in their own half and tensions threatening to boil over between both sides.

Ultimately though, the Sea Eagles did enough to hold on, snapping a three-game losing streak and bagging their first victory without Tom Trbojevic this year.

Haumole Olakau’atu had some powerful runs early in his last audition for a NSW State of Origin debut, but was quiet from then on in on Manly’s left edge.

Defeat aside, Melbourne’s one concern will be a calf injury for winger Will Warbrick, who limped from the field in the second half and did not return.

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