Addin Fonua-Blake has made his mark on the field for Manly, powering the Sea Eagles back into the NRL top eight with a 24-12 win over North Queensland.
On return from a two-game ban for his offensive spray at referee Grant Atkins, Fonua-Blake topped 200 metres on Friday evening in Townsville.
Martin Taupau was also dominant for Manly up front, proving again why they should be in the conversation for the best front-row pairing in the competition.
The Cowboys showed plenty of heart under new coach Josh Hannay, but couldn’t do enough to secure their fourth win of the season.
Barred from playing in Queensland a week ago due to their vaccination policy, Fonua-Blake only met the state government’s requirements this week.
He finished the game with four tackle busts, with 93 of his metres coming post-contact and all but six of the Sea Eagles’ points coming while he was on the field.
Cade Cust was also superb for Manly at five-eighth.
He put Manly on the front foot early with a forced dropout, before Daly Cherry-Evans backed it up with another and put Curtis Sironen over from the ensuing set.
And after both teams traded tries to make it 12-6 at halftime, the five-eighth pulled off the two decisive plays of the second half.
His first came in the 59th minute when he broke downfield and put Cherry-Evans over, despite a desperate effort from winger Kyle Feldt to hold him up between the posts.
He sealed the match eight minutes later when he dummied through the line from 10 metres out to cross.
Manly are due to get Dylan Walker back next week, but Cust has shown if he is still more than one week off, he is more than up to the challenge.
The win did come at a cost for Manly, though, with Joel Thompson leaving the field early with an ankle injury.
The Cowboys were gutsy just days after coach Paul Green left the club, with Jason Taumalolo his typical powerful self in the middle.
On one occasion, Mitchell Dunn did incredibly well to hold up a hard-running Jack Gosiewski close to the line as Manly threatened to make it 18-0.
It paid dividends when Feldt reduced the margin to six when he leapt high over Jorge Taufua to take a Jake Clifford cross-field kick and score just before the break.
Coen Hess bombed a try with 14 minutes to go which would have made it 18-12, before Francis Molo claimed one late.