If defence does win premierships, and there is little evidence to suggest it doesn't, it's impossible not to consider Manly one of the real contenders. After five rounds, they have the competition's best defence, having conceded an average of a try a match.
Against the Bulldogs, last year's grand finalists, the Sea Eagles almost produced their third shut-out of the season, hooker Michael Ennis scoring a late try for the home side. It was a superb defensive performance nonetheless.
"Our defence was first class," Manly coach Geoff Toovey said. "I think we've got a bunch of forwards who are working very hard and who are consistently doing their jobs. We've got a great crew working hard with our players, and they're buying into it.
Going nowhere: Steve Matai brings down Josh Jackson. Photo: Anthony Johnson
"We've got a quality side, and we hope that we can be consistent enough to be in the mix this year as well. It's very hard to get a win against the Bulldogs, who are a quality side.
"They were a bit understaffed, they had a couple of guys pull out late, but full credit to our guys. We played well, particularly in the first half."
Five-eighth Kieran Foran added: "We're defending really well at the moment. We're just working together, we're putting a lot of effort into it during the week at training. It's something we really want to pride ourselves on this season." Toovey, though, maintained it was too early to write off Des Hasler's Bulldogs.
"Whilst I'd rather be winning than losing, it's not the end of the season for anyone," Toovey said. "Like us last year – we had a fairly topsy-turvy year, but we got there in the end, and we put one of our worst performances of that year on [against Melbourne in the preliminary final] and we were out of the comp. As long as you can get there in the end, anything can happen."
While Bulldogs captain Ennis maintained "there's plenty of time to improve", there was at least one positive for Hasler, who quipped: "One from four - I can assure you we're back under the radar again." The coach added: "I thought we were off. I thought we were poor. Manly were too good for us. They've defended very well. Their record says it all. But we were off.
"We didn't complete well, we didn't do the fundamentals well, we didn't hang onto the ball. Then down the other end, we didn't take the right options.
"That's the disappointing part, and it's something that we'll address during the week."
Hasler, meanwhile, brushed off criticism aimed at second-rower Tony Williams, who was poor against his former club.
"It's steady," Hasler said of his recruit's form. "New club, give him time.'
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/case-for-defence-manly-the-real-deal-20130405-2hct7.html#ixzz2PdblJH3O