It was meant to be a new dawn for Manly, but instead a slimmed down Canterbury showed they would again be a force under Des Hasler in 2016.
The Bulldogs made light work of the Sea Eagles 28-6 at Brookvale Oval on Friday night in the second match of the NRL’s opening round before 16,512 fans.
The visitors’ leaner forward pack dominated new-look Manly up front for much of the opening stanza, helping them to open up a 22-0 lead at the break courtesy of tries to Sam Perrett, Will Hopoate, Sam Kasiano and Josh Morris.
Morris’ try was his 100th four-pointer in his 194th first-grade game. He joined twin Brett and father Steve in scoring more than 100 top-grade tries.
In Trent Barrett’s first outing as coach since Geoff Toovey’s unpopular sacking, Manly failed to live up to the hype of their off-season signing spree that included Nate Myles, Martin Taupau and Dylan Walker. They were their own worst enemies at times, failing to find touch after penalties and dropping simple passes.
The Dogs were a step or three above in comparison and were very enterprising at times as halves Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds, who earned two try assists, managed to spark their attack far more than Daly Cherry-Evans and Walker.
Manly were finally on the scoreboard in the 65th minute through Jorge Taufua, before Curtis Rona replied in the 73rd minute to send the Brookvale faithful streaming for the exits.
Many experts have predicted the Dogs to miss the eight this year, but coach Hasler has managed to stay ahead of the curve and correctly read the changes to a quicker game as a result of the reduced interchange rule. In contrast, Barrett has a long week ahead of him before Manly’s second-round clash on Monday week with Wests Tigers.
Steve Matai was put on report for a 29th-minute high tackle on Aiden Tolman, while Taupau was also reported for a first-half shoulder charge.
Dogs centre Chase Stanley suffered a leg injury, and hooker Michael Lichaa left the field with 15 minutes left with a knee injury.
Canterbury next play Penrith away on Thursday.
The win is Canterbury’s fifth straight over Manly.
Hasler stressed it was only round one, but he was happy with Canterbury’s effort.
“It is good to get the first win, it just gives the players a little bit of confidence,” he said.
“We controlled the game pretty well, but gave away too many penalties in the second half.
The two-time premiership winning coach reserved praise for Reynolds and Mbye and for Will Hopoate in his first game for the club, standing in at fullback for Brett Morris.
“They (Reynolds and Mbye) were solid and Will Hopoate was particularly strong,” he said.
Barrett admitted he struggled in his first time as head coach.
“It’s not a good feeling,’ he said of the loss.
“We never gave ourselves a chance early on. We just dropped to much ball and gave them too much of a head start.”