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Little-known playmaker stars as Manly ruin Hannay’s big night

“You haven’t mentioned Cade Cust, I thought he was really good tonight,” Hasler said.

“He was very strong and came up with a couple of big plays – there was the linebreak and try.

“He played six or eight games [at five-eighth] last year, he was very strong and competitive, and I thought he was outstanding for us tonight.”

Hasler also commended Fonua-Blake, the Tongan wrecking ball who is now easily among the top three props in the game: “He brings a lot of momentum and confidence to the team. Addin comes and competes week in week out.”

The Cowboys were given a huge hope of causing a Friday evening boilover given the arrival of caretaker coach Hannay.

Hannay was thrust into the top job after Paul Green walked away from the top job at the start of the week.

While the home side dominated at the start of the second half, their last-tackle options continued to let them down.

Another night, another loss for Cowboys superstar Jason Taumalolo.

Another night, another loss for Cowboys superstar Jason Taumalolo.Credit:Getty

And it was Cust who blew the game open when he broke out of a tackle from Jake Clifford, stormed down field and threw the final pass for Daly Cherry-Evans to score.

Cherry-Evans looked set to be denied by Kyle Feldt, but was able to plant the ball down with his second effort.

A few minutes later Cust then barged his way over to make it 24-6 and all but put the result to bed.

Cust has looked better with every game, and Halser will have a good selection headache when regular No.6 Dylan Walker soon returns from injury.

The only drama for Hasler was an injury to back-rower Joel Thompson, who pulled up short in the stride in the fourth minute when he chased hard after a Cust grubber.

Cade Cust (right) celebrates a try with Manly teammates on Friday night.

Cade Cust (right) celebrates a try with Manly teammates on Friday night.Credit:NRL Photos

His replacement Jack Gosiewski had a few tough moments in the first half when he failed to grasp a Cherry-Evans grubber, then struggled to get the ball down on the ground over the try line when he stormed on to a lovely short ball from the halfback.

North Queensland turned a potential 18-point deficit into just six points when they went the ever-reliable aerial route for Feldt to score. The tryscorer added the extras from out wide.

The Sea Eagles have won two on the trot and will do well to make it three if they can beat the high-flying Penrith at home next Saturday night.

The thing Hasler would have loved most was the desperation in defence in the final 90 seconds after Cowboys fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow made a burst down field, only for a wall of Manly defenders to scramble all the way back up the other end of the field.

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Brendan Elliot did a good job again in Tom Trbojevic’s No.1 jersey, but his habit of defusing bombs while leading with his feet is destined to land him in hot water. Coen Hess found out the hard way a couple of times and took it upon himself to remind Elliot he did not appreciate the catching style.

Hannay, whose second-up assignment is against Canberra at home, said: “It was encouraging to see the guys show some resolve and grit.

“We can’t go back from that and can’t turn up next week and have a softness about us. We need to make sure the last fortnight around effort and attitude is the standard and benchmark for us for the rest of the year.”

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