The return of superstar Tom Trbojevic and a captain’s knock from Daly Cherry-Evans led Manly to a 31-6 win over the Bulldogs at 4 Pines Park.
In Anthony Seibold’s first game at the helm, the Sea Eagles exorcised the demons of their seven-game losing streak at the end of a testing 2022 campaign with some sizzling attacking football.
A kick out on the full by Bulldogs five-eighth Matt Burton in the 11th minute gave Manly a shot at the line but Reed Mahoney did a great job to clean up a Cherry-Evans grubber and defuse the situation.
Two minutes later it was Burton inexplicably passing to Viliame Kikau on the last tackle and the back-rower kicked out on the full to give the home side another chance with Cherry-Evans forcing a line dropout.
In the end, the pressure proved too much for Canterbury and 4 Pines Park erupted when Cherry-Evans grubbered ahead and Tom Trbojevic followed through to toe ahead and score in his first game back.
The Bulldogs hit back in the 21st minute when Mahoney put in a grubber close to the line and collected the rebound off the uprights to score his first try as a Bulldog. Burton’s conversion levelled the scores at 6-6.
The sin-binning of Bulldogs halfback Kyle Flanagan with five minutes remaining in the first half for a professional foul proved critical with Manly crossing a minute later through Reuben Garrick.
Manly looked to have extended their lead on the stroke of half-time after a dropped ball by Josh Addo-Carr was scooped up by Jake Trbojevic who found Garrick and the winger kicked through. Cooper Johns chased and looked to have touched down first but replays showed Bulldogs prop Max King had scrambled back to ground the ball in a massive play.
The home side needed just three minutes after the break to extend their lead to 18-6 courtesy of a try to Cherry-Evans and when the skipper raced away in the 61st minute to complete his double after a powerful burst by Taniela Paseka the Sea Eagles were rocking at 24-6.
With the game in the bag Tom Trbojevic was given an early mark in the 64th minute and young gun Kaeo Weekes took over at fullback but a head knock to Lachlan Croker three minutes later saw ‘Turbo’ sent back into the game.
Cherry-Evans then capped a classy display with a field goal and an intercept try to take Manly out by 25 points as the Anthony Seibold era was launched in style in front of a full house at 4 Pines Park.
The win was Manly’s first in a season opener since 2013 and will give them plenty of momentum for their round three clash with old rivals Parramatta after a bye next week.