The Roar
The Roar


Sea Eagles rock Roosters to show they're the real deal in 2024 - with a little help from Bunker's blurred tunnel vision

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17th March, 2024
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Manly were lucky to score one try due to a contentious Bunker decision, bombed a couple of others but thoroughly deserved their 21-14 triumph over the Roosters at Brookvale on Sunday.

The Sea Eagles are a surprise 2-0 to kick off 2024 after backing up their Las Vegas boilover against the Bunnies with a classy all-round display back on home turf.

It is very rare that Roosters star Joseph Manu is outplayed but young Manly centre Tolu Koula torched the Kiwi international with a blistering display down the left edge.

They dominated field position and possession, clocking up 59% of the ball, and the Roosters were lucky to only lose by seven as they managed to stay in the contest for most of the match before Manly wore them down.

The Sea Eagles’ first campaign under coach Anthony Seibold in 2023 went pear-shaped after Tom Trbojevic’s season-ending shoulder surgery to finish 12th but with their star fullback fit and firing, they can be top-four contenders.

Bunker lacks tunnel vision

The opening try of the match was analysed several times by the Bunker before getting the all-clear despite Tom Trbojevic employing the subtle art of tunnelling – running through on a bomb and getting under his opposing fullback’s landing zone. 


Luke Brooks hoisted a kick high in the seventh minute and by the time it came down just outside the tryline, Trbojevic had backed his way in so that when James Tedesco flew high to catch it, his legs were taken out.

He fumbled it as he flew off balance with Sea Eagles hooker Lachlan Croker scooping up the Steeden to score.

Trbojevic only made a cursory effort at the end to make it look like he was trying to catch the ball and the hosts were very lucky to get the green light from the Bunker.

“Tom didn’t make a play at the ball, he ran through and made contact with Tedesco,” premiership-winning halfback Greg Alexander said on Fox League commentary. “I am stunned that that wasn’t a penalty to the Roosters.” 

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Dominic Young of the Roosters is tackled during the round two NRL match between Manly Sea Eagles and Sydney Roosters at 4 Pines Park, on March 17, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Dominic Young is tackled. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Beaten coach coach Trent Robinson was adamant it wasn’t a try based on the footage the NRL officials had sent out to clubs in the pre-season to say the tunnelling tactic was in their crosshairs but he did not think it meant the wrong team won the match.

“Obviously it was a no-try. It was pretty simple that that’s been the rule that they’ve sent out and they’ve been really clear on that and they’ve penalised it so that was a strange one,” he said.


Tedesco questioned referee Todd Smith to no avail. “He made contact in the air. We’ve watched clips on that and that’s a penalty.”

Sea Eagles’ attack slick and speedy

It wasn’t quite the bright lights of Allegiant Stadium but the two Las Vegas winning teams put on a show at Brookvale’s more modest surrounds. 

Manly’s edge defence was a major issue last year and their right side was exposed in the 10th minute when the Roosters ran what looked like a glorified training drill for Daniel Tupou to score in the left corner. 

The home side regained the momentum after seizing on a bad pass from Luke Keary, sending the ball quickly to the other flank for Tolu Koula to dive over while filling in on the wing with Tommy Talau off getting an HIA.

Scores were back on level terms at 10-10 by the 25-minute mark when Keary dished the ball to Sitili Tupouniua, who touch-passed it back inside to Tedsco on the fly to replicate the Storm’s old Cameron Smith-Cooper Cronk-Billy Slater three-man weave.


The Sea Eagles should have put their beaks back in front but Brooks fumbled the ball over the line after spilling a pass from Haumole Olakau’atu from a Karl Lawton break.

He went perilously close again soon afterwards from a Roosters handling error but just stepped into touch as he dived over in the corner.

Manly were dominating the contest and the Roosters conceded a penalty on the stroke of half-time to avoid suffering further damage and went to the sheds trailing 12-10.

The interval didn’t slow Manly down and they went 18-10 up a couple of minutes into the second half when Brooks and Koula spun the ball wide with lightning quick reflexes for Talau to touch down. 

“I thought we did a really good job either side of half-time,” Seibold said. “We set the tone in the start of the second half with our D and we got a bit of reward off the back of it and were probably unlucky not to get another try there and go two or three tries in front.”

Olakau’atu went close three times to extending the lead in the space of a couple of minutes – first he was held up, then tackled just a millimetre or two short and then missing out due to his own handling, with a bobble in the tackle from Keary leading to the Bunker’s computer saying no.

Seibold said he thought the Olakau’autu decision should have been a try which would cancel out any controversy from the earlier call that went their way for Croker scoring the opener.


Former Knights winger Dominic Young celebrated his Roosters debut with a long-range intercept try to get his new team back into the fight even though they had been outplayed for most of the match. 

The chase from Reuben Garrick and Daly Cherry-Evans ensured he scored out wide and that proved a big benefit to Manly when the Roosters missed the conversion. 

They re-established a six-point advantage from an offside penalty and then went seven up when Cherry-Evans banged over a field goal with seven minutes to go to seal Manly’s second straight upset win to start the year after rolling the Rabbitohs in Vegas. 

“I thought they controlled the game for 80 minutes,” said Robinson. “We were playing catch-up for most of the game.

“It was a bit disjointed there from us. The left hand wasn’t speaking to the right hand at different times. We couldn’t get any rhythm at any point and that was a credit to the opposition. They created that through their ruck speed and carries.”

Keary, who has a history of head knocks, went off early in the final stages after accidentally copping a knee from Trbojevic and could be rested on a short turnaround for Friday’s showdown with Souths at Allianz Stadium although Robinson said the veteran five-eighth appeared to be OK after the match.


Talau also didn’t go the distance with fears that the injury-plagued former Wests Tigers speedster has suffered serious ankle damage.

Seibold said it could be dislocated or broken but scans on Monday would determine the extent of the injury.