It’s just how things are going for Cherry-Evans – and Manly – at the moment.
“Sometimes you just have those games,” Hasler said of Cherry-Evans. “It’s very rare, but he’ll fix that. He’ll be a real professional about the way he goes about his preparation this week.
“It’s the week-in, week-out performance I’m concerned about. I thought we started well and changed a few things up with our attack in the first 20 minutes, but we’re not just competing for long enough. We need to fix it. No doubt we’ll lick our wounds and come back Saturday night against a red-hot Parramatta side.”
After a week of fall-out from Addin Fonua-Blake’s foul-mouthed tirade at referee Grant Atkins, Manly blew a chance to re-enter the top eight and dropped their third straight match since Trbojevic went down.
The loss was as much to do with a vastly improved Dragons than a below-par Sea Eagles as St George Illawarra peeled off 34 unanswered points to claw within one win of the top eight with a thumping 34-4 win at Kogarah’s Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Sunday night.
The Dragons further eased pressure on coach Paul McGregor before a return fixture against Dean Pay’s cellar-dwelling Bulldogs, who have only won one game this year, against St George Illawarra last month.
Asked whether the win was a reward for the faith the club has showed in him, McGregor said: “It’s not about me to be totally honest.
“I do [have to answer the ongoing questions], but I’m here to serve my players and my club. I’m just 100 per cent fixated on improving our place week to week. I attack the week the same way.”
The Dragons led Manly 10-4 midway through the second half when Dufty kicked ahead following a fortuitous rebound off Cherry-Evans, prompting Taufua to drag him down and spent 10 minutes on the sideline.
St George Illawarra made them pay with eight unanswered points before running riot late in the game as they climbed to 11th spot on the NRL ladder.
The electric Dufty was also pivotal in the first half’s defining moment, linking with Zac Lomax in an 80-metre turnaround after Cherry-Evans split the St George Illawarra defence and threw a no-look intercept to the Dragons centre.
Ben Hunt started at hooker for the first time this season and was busy through 80 straight minutes in a pack which was led by the tireless Paul Vaughan.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 34 (Josh Kerr, Matt Dufty, Mikaele Ravalwa, Zac Lomax, Corey Norman, Euan Aitken tries; Zac Lomax 5 goals) defeated MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES 4 (Joel Thompson try) at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin. Crowd: 1571.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.