Brisbane travelled to Gosford to take on the Sea Eagles after a week of introspection. The proud club had suffered a club record 59-0 defeat at the hands of the Roosters a week ago and speculation was rife about exactly what was going on.
Still missing seven players through injury, fans were not expecting miracles, but they needed to see a greater effort. There is nothing worse than the feeling that the well-paid players representing your club don't have their heart in the cause. Rugby league at the highest level is such an intense contest that it doesn't take much of a slip in commitment or morale for a team to fall right off the map over 80 minutes.
In front of 178 Manly fans scattered through corporate facilities at Central Coast Stadium, the Broncos ran onto the increasingly dewy surface. From the kick-off Matt Lodge charged into the maroon and white wall. It was a run with plenty of conviction, but there were 80 minutes of football ahead of them.
In defence the Broncos looked more aggressive, moving up as one and making some heavy contact. The often criticisied Anthony Milford came out of the line to put a big shot on. It was inspiration stuff from the five-eighth as he looked to set the tone for an improved performance.
Just five minutes into the game, the Broncos bombed to the wing of debutante Tevita Funa. The ball was caught by Xavier Coates who passed inside to Kotoni Staggs who kicked ahead and won the race to the ball. Staggs, who was missing through suspension last week, pumped his fist into the air as his jubilant teammates gathered round. It had taken them six minutes to achieve something that was beyond them for the whole game against the Roosters.
Ten minutes later they kicked to the same corner once more and Coates out-jumped them all to come down with the ball and score a second try for the Broncos. The conversion took them out to a promising early 12-0 lead.
Each attacking raid by the Sea Eagles was being repelled by determined Broncos defence, with last tackle options again seeming to be an issue with Manly. If anything the Sea Eagles were looking flat. The Broncos moving off their line in unison and at speed.
The Broncos were receiving plenty of six again calls as they worked their way down the field. After 29 minutes, on the back of another six again call, they ran a backline play. A couple of decoy runs and a pass around the back caught Daly Cherry-Evans out of his line and Darius Boyd crashed over out wide. Jamayne Isaako converted to take the advantage to 18-0.
The game looked all but over, but the Sea Eagles were next to score with a slick backline movement of their own, with Dylan Walker passing to Tom Trbojevic to winger Funa who scored in the corner. The conversion was missed by Reuben Garrick and the teams left the field for oranges with the score 18-4 in Brisbane's favour.
Manly coach Des Hasler must have peeled the paint off the walls during the break as the home team was first to score in the second half. Brodie Croft was caught out by a decoy run allowing Cherry-Evans to cross. Garrick converted and the Broncos started to look nervous as their lead was whittled down to 10 points.
Fifteen minutes after the break the Sea Eagles were in again through Moses Suli. The lead was narrowed to just two points.
Coates who was having a great game, then took out a Sea Eagles player as he chased though on a high ball and the penalty goal levelled the scores at 18. The Broncos were back-pedalling in defence and all their good work early in the game was coming undone.
With 11 minutes left, a Cherry-Evans field goal attempt was deflected. It kept the scores level, but it also meant another seven tackles with the ball. A stripping penalty against Broncos lock Patrick Carrigan saw Garrick lining up a kick to take the lead. After trailing 18-0 the Sea Eagles had scored 20 unanswered points. Brisbane looked tired and they looked disheartened.
With seven minutes remaining Coates soared again to take a Broncos bomb 10 metres out from the Sea Eagles line, but he was well covered when he landed.
With just over two minutes on the clock it looked like Milford was going to win the game for the Broncos, his stepping, weaving run 20 metres out ended in a pass to an unmarked Boyd, but an outstretched hand from Cherry-Evans knocked the ball down. From their next possession Coates looked set to crash over in the corner before Trbojevic threw himself at the Broncos flyer, sending him into the advertising.
The clock ran down and the Sea Eagles prevailed. It was shattering for the Broncos players, but it showed more than anything that they were still willing to give their all for the club. Broncos fans had to be happy with the improvement, and coach Anthony Seibold had seen the effort every coach requires of his players.