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A hat-trick of tries from young winger Michael Oldfield sealed a 20-8 NRL win for Manly over St George Illawarra in an entertaining clash at Brookvale Oval on Friday night.
The win ended a run of four successive defeats at the hands of the Dragons for the premiers, who were in full control for most of the game, but allowed the joint venture to close the gap to two points in the second half before icing the result in the last five minutes.
The Dragons took the lead after seven minutes when Jamie Soward opted to take two points by converting a penalty in front of the posts.
That early setback boosted the home side, who stepped up their attack with three successive sets before Oldfield went over in the 18th minute.
The hosts failed to add to the tally in the first half despite dominating possession and went to halftime with a narrow 6-2 advantage.
However, they punished the Dragons immediately after the restart when Ben Creagh was penalised for not releasing Matt Ballin in the tackle.
A wonderful break from Glenn Stewart fooled the visitors, and his pass to Jamie Lyon was fed to Oldfield who had the simple task of diving over the line.
The Dragons' attack had been too predictable to cause the Sea Eagles any real problems, but they had immediate success when they opted to run the ball up the middle.
Brett Morris embarked on a 60-metre run and two tackles later, winger Daniel Vidot powered over to score, with Soward adding the extras to cut the hosts' lead to 10-8.
The Dragons then enjoyed a stiff spell of pressure but could not find their way over for a second try.
Oldfield made it tough for the Dragons when he crossed with five minutes to go after a classy angled run from Brett Stewart, and Darcy Lussick added some gloss to the scoreline with a four-pointer just before the siren.
Manly coach Geoff Toovey said his patched-up side would relish next week's bye with Jason King missing the game due to illness and Foran struggling to finish the game with a sore ankle.
"For us the bye has come at a great time, as long as we can maintain that momentum after the break we will be in good stead," Toovey said.
Toovey also said he was unsure if NSW utility Jamie Buhrer's back injury was serious after he went off in the second half.
"We will find out how bad it is tomorrow," he said.
Dragons mentor Steve Price was full of praise for his side's spirit and defence but admitted improvement was needed in attack.
"I am very proud of the guys' effort and the way they had a dig," Price said."Our defence was outstanding in the first half, but we need to work on our execution. But we'll fix it."
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