By Adam Lucius
Manly walked away from Uni Oval on Saturday beaten but convinced they can rattle Sydney Uni's cage should the sides meet again in the Shute Shield finals.
The Marlins led 11-10 early in the second half but were eventually overpowered 32-14 to slip from second to third on the table.
Unless there is minor miracle and Warringah beat the Students in next Saturday's final round, Manly will finish third and meet either Randwick or Norths in the first week of the play-offs.
Win that and Tim Lane's men will be pitchforked into the grand final qualifier against Uni on September 18.
"We gave them a few soft ones and didn't take the chances we had in the first half," Lane lamented after Saturday's loss.
"Had we taken a couple of opportunities it may have been a different story, but at least we know we're not that far away from them."
The confidence among the players was just as strong.
"Until they scored that try under the posts (to take it to 27-11) I thought we were right in it," breakaway Michael Hooper said.
"We're a bit shattered to lose it. A few tries went begging.
"At least we know what we have to do if we play them again.
"We're in good stead for the finals."
But the negatives were not and cannot be glossed over.
Uni won the 'big' moments in the game, hanging in early when Manly enjoyed possession and field position and cashing in when it was their turn.
The Marlins were unlucky to have a try to winger Jacob Woodhouse disallowed for a forward pass after a long bust from lock Cadeyrn Neville just before half-time.
But tries to Nathan Trist and Bernard Foley in quick succession midway through the second half killed the visitors off.
Attention now turns to Randwick at Manly Oval this Saturday.
The Marlins will get Western Force duo Willie Ripia and Tevita Metiusela back while classy centre Robbie Coleman also returns.
Prop Jono Owen may be back and there is a whisper Wycliff Palu may make a 30-40 minute cameo before departing for the World Cup.
"We'll have a bit more strikepower and control once we get everyone back on board," Lane said.
"We did a lot of good things (against Uni) but couldn't capitalise on what we created."
"We've got to finish the things we create."