The second placed Manly Sea Eagles were able to grind out another win today; albeit with some classy tries from the Manly boys – they should have won by much more against a Brisbane Broncos side virtually playing on one leg.
The Broncos; already without Darren Lockyer, Brent Tate and Karmichael Hunt – we’re always going to struggle with creativity and attacking set plays – but Manly did their best to hand the game to the Broncos on a platter.
Manly’s completion rate for the majority of the first half was well below 50% as they turned the ball over constantly to the Brisbane Broncos. Des Hasler fiddled his combinations – pushing Jamie Lyon to the centre position early on; a move most NRL pundits think best suits the Sea Eagles in their quest for NRL glory in 2007.
With Steve Menzies playing five eight – the Sea Eagles did look dangerous when they had the ball, but were forced to defend constantly for the whole first half. Fortunately their defence is near the best in the NRL and they got plenty of tackling practise as they turned away raid after raid from the Brisbane Broncos.
When the Broncos lost Shaun Berrigan early on with a fractured jaw and eye socket – the Brisbane side got even more lost in attack. They rarely reached their kick – dying with the ball several times and ran side to side; without any creative flair available to them.
Justin Hodges was slotted into five eight; and Tony Carroll moved wider as Wayne Bennett struggled for ideas.
When Manly started to get their hands on the ball and hold on to it – boy do they look dangerous. Their outside backs easily got on the outside of their opposite men – with Anthony Watmough running on the fringes; the Sea Eagles were getting line breaks on most possession sets and the support play was impressive. Jamie Lyon, Matt Orford and Michael Monaghan al sniffing around and following the play nicely.
When the Manly side gets a momentum roll going with the ball; they are similar to the Melbourne Storm in that they are extremely hard to stop. Big, mobile forwards punch it through for the Sea Eagles – they all have offloads and the skill around them is intense. Matt Orford grubbering and regathering to setup a flying Watmough who bagged a triple swag of tries for himself.
Many NRL punters continue to analyze Manly’s chances of NRL glory in 2007 – surely the Sea Eagles have answered all the calls. They defend stoutly and the thing that impresses me about their attack is their ‘smarts’. They have the skill and player quality – but their ‘smart men’ in Matt Orford and Michael Monagahan read the game better than anyone. They know when to spin it to the edge quickly, or to target an injured player or hit a certain hole. They are ‘on’ at all times.
The Brisbane Broncos will struggle to make the NRL Top 8 from here – with Shaun Berrigan joining Darren Lockyer and Brent Tate – with season ending injuries. It looks like Tonie Carroll will also miss some games ahead with a neck complaint.
The Broncos face Melbourne, The Bulldogs, Raiders and Eels in their quest to make the finals. A tough ask of anyone; let alone the walking wounded. Just don’t ask Wayne Bennett about a slump if it arrives!