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Manly’s NRL season from hell has hit a new low after being embarrassed 42-34 by the Gold Coast.
After a build-up dominated by headlines about Trent Barrett’s future, the furore seemed to take a toll as the Sea Eagles turned belly-up in the second half.
In front of a paltry Lottoland crowd of 6382, the Titans ran in 36 unanswered points to leave the club in danger of collecting the wooden spoon.
After leading 22-6 after 32 minutes, the Sea Eagles threw it all away and the result will only pile on the scrutiny.
Barrett once again refused to elaborate on widespread reports he’ll forego the final two years of his contract over a lack of resources and support.
When asked how the club digs itself out of the mire, he suggested all was not well behind the scenes, saying: “You’re going to have to ask the administration about that.
“From a coaching point of view, I’ll keep doing everything I can to ensure the players keep turning up and that’s my responsibility to them.
“We are in a difficult spot … no doubting that but it’s not one bloke that can get you out of it, there’s a lot of things have to be going right.
“A lot of departments have to be ticking along well and everyone has to be on the same page.”
The result leaves the Sea Eagles two points ahead of Canterbury, Parramatta and North Queensland and in danger of finishing last for the first time since entering the competition in 1947.
The Sea Eagles should have been up more than 22-6 in the shadows of half time after being held up three times and having Joel Thompson denied by the bunker for double movement.
Outstanding teenager AJ Brimson – playing his second game at fullback – then turned the game just before the break.
After saving a try on Brian Kelly at one end, the 19-year-old left Daly Cherry-Evans grasping at thin air at the other to kick-start the fightback.
Kane Elgey showed Manly what they’ll be getting next year when he sliced through and sent Ash Taylor under the posts to whittle the margin to six.
Phillip Sami, Mitch Rein and Jack Stockwell crossed for soft tries before Brimson put the icing on the cake with an Allan Langer-like grubber-and-regather.
At one point Manly were reduced to 11 men with Addin Fonua-Blake (dissent) and Dylan Walker (professional foul) sin-binned.
Jake and Tom Trbojevic both crossed in the final five minutes to add some respectability but the damage was done.
Gold Coast skipper Ryan James described coach Garth Brennan’s halftime spray as “colourful” and deserving.
“The first half wasn’t acceptable defensively, there’s no doubt about that,” Brennan said.
“It was disappointing, I needed a response. I believe in the guys and they weren’t dishing up what I know they’re capable of doing.”
Referee Chris Butler was replaced by standby official Jon Stone after 25 minutes after suffering a strained hamstring.