Sea Eagles expose Hayne weakness in triumph over Titans
A FLYING Fijian and Origin rival have exposed Jarryd Hayne's Achilles heel, leaving NSW coach Laurie Daley and club counterpart Neil Henry mulling massive selection calls around the Titans superstar.
Hayne is expected to take up a lucrative $1.2 million option to stay at the Gold Coast by the end of the weekend, but his days at left centre are surely numbered after an injury-hit Manly targeted his edge en route to a gusty 30-10 win.
The Sea Eagles right side of Akuila Uate and Dylan Walker - who finished the contest on one leg courtesy of a cork - had a field day opposite Hayne and Dale Copley, racking up three tries, three line breaks, 13 tackle busts and 268 metres between them.
Daley now shares Henry's defensive dilemma, with Hayne the pre-game hot tip for the Blues No.3 jumper when NSW name their side on Monday night.
Hayne's previous show-stealing performances on the big stage, not to mention the threat he poses with ball in hand, mount a compelling case for his inclusion for Origin I.
But after watching him rush in, only to be found out by Manly on multiple occasions, the front line looks the last place for him.
Only a 37th-minute fumble with the line wide open denied Uate a first-half double down Hayne's edge.
The ex-Blues and Kangaroos winger all but took flight for Manly's first, winding back to his brilliance of years past with a shimmy, shake and a swerve that had Tyrone Roberts wishing it had stayed there.
The space for Uate's dash was found after Hayne was targeted the previous tackle, catching the Gold Coast's new left-edge defence at sixes and sevens.
Hayne's foolish push into no man's land set up the Sea Eagles next eight minutes later, Daly Cherry-Evans sending an easy long ball for Uate once more to speed through the hole left by the Titans biggest earner.
Again the veteran flankman had Roberts - who has kept Hayne from his favoured No.1 jersey until now - in a tizz again, busting through his last line of defence to find Walker and the tryline.
Manly added a dash of slapstick to the spectacular in between, just to keep things interesting.
Swinging wide immediately after Uate's opener, Blake Green piloted the ball straight into Brian Kelly's head, which in turn sent it straight into the hands of Gold Coast half Ash Taylor, who duly took off for his side's only try of the half.
Kelly's bizarre night against his former side continued soon after, the young centre pinged for a professional foul when he illegally slowed up Konrad Hurrell as he threatened to break clear.
Somehow teammate Frank Winterstein, all but a bystander in the play, ended up in the bin.
But despite being reduced to 12 men, Manly kept their foot on the throat with Jake Trbojevic powering through the middle for another try after the break.
If Hayne's Blues hopes copped a blow, then Trbojevic's were only boosted by his tireless 163 running metres, 40 tackles, two line breaks and the aforementioned try to boot.
Second-half injury concerns to NSW hopeful Walker (cork), Maroons veteran Nate Myles (knee) and Jorge Taufua (concussion) threatened to drag the Sea Eagles back down to earth.
But just as keeping Hayne at centre exposed him in defence, confining the ex-NFL convert to one edge limited him in attack.
Desperately hunting points against a Manly mob reduced to 15 fit men, the Titans looked most likely through Konrad Hurrell and Anthony Don's right flank.
Only the visitor's own desperation in defence denied them, before another lapse from Hayne iced it.
Once again he found himself off-kilter with the rest of the Gold Coast's defence as Manly pressed their line with seven minutes remaining, and Walker found himself strolling through a thoroughly deserved double.
Daley, Henry and Hayne on the other hand, they're left searching for answers.