By Adam Lucius
Manly remain the only undefeated team in the Shute Shield after making it four straight wins with a controlled 28-15 win over Northern Suburbs on Saturday.
The Marlins have beaten Randwick, Sydney Uni, Southern Districts and now the Shoremen to lead the table on 18 points from second-placed Souths.
But even the Marlins' most fervent supporter would have to concede they are yet to play anywhere near their best.
The win over Norths was never really in doubt but Manly made it harder than it looked.
Before a good-sized crowd on a glorious day at Manly Oval, the home side skipped out to 20-3 halftime lead courtesy of tries to Harry Bergelin, Jacob Woodhouse and Sione Ala.
Ala added a penalty early in the second half to push the lead out to 20 points but then Manly went into hibernation.
Aided by a healthy supply of possession, Norths worked their way back into the game as the Village Green fell silent.
The Shoremen pegged the lead back to just eight points - 23-15 - late in the game but time was always their enemy.
Manly regained their composure to score a try after the bell to Alex Miles, triggering the fourth try bonus point.
"It's always good to win at home and our defence was a lot better than it was last week (in the 42-41 win over Souths)," assistant Manly coach Damien Cummins said.
"Our first half was good and the second a bit ordinary but Norths were desperate and kept coming.
"You can't complain about four from four.
"There is a lot of improvement to come but it's a good position to be in at this stage of the season."
Centre Brian Sefanai, one of Manly's best along with Harry Bergelin and Jordy Reid, added: "We've got a few areas we've got to work on because we were a bit loose at times.
"But we're building each week and trying to keep on the roll.
"There is plenty of improvement left in us."
Manly are away to Penrith next Saturday.
Manly 28 (Harry Bergelin, Alex Miles, Jacob Woodhouse, Sione Ala tries; Sione Ala con, 2 pens) def Northern Suburbs 15 (Rory Walton, Bill Meakes tries; Mitch Walton con, pen).
In the lower grades, Norths came up with two wins from three.
They drew first blood with a 26-7 win in fourths before Manly caused a major boilover with a 22-14 triumph in thirds.
The 34-31 loss in reserve grade cut the Marlins deeply, the lead surrendered after the fulltime bell.