While it was the farewell night at Brookvale for Manly’s favourite son Steve Menzies, the Sea Eagles final 20 minutes of frustration could cost them in the suspension department with several high tackles sure to come under investigation after they beat a gutsy Titans side 28-10 in front of a packed house at Brooky.
The Titans fought tooth and nail, despite rarely threatening the scorers, the visitors made Manly work hard for whole match, despite the relatively comfortable scoreline.
Des Hasler would be the first to admit everything went the Sea Eagles way tonight, with two tries coming off freakish plays – one involving a kick riccochet and another off a massive falcon from Titan Scott Prince.
Regardless, no one would spoil the night of Steve Menzies, and the locals chanted all night ensuring they sent the club stalwart out in style from the opening whistle, with bone-jarring hits from Josh Perry and Steve Matai in the first set of the game.
Manly forward Glen Hall carried several Titans defenders over the line in just the third minute, but a video referee adjudication wasn’t needed, after Jason Robinson ruled Anthony Watmough had obstructed a Gold Coast defender in the lead up.
A Titans knock-on, followed by a flop penalty provided the Sea Eagles with some sustained possession in the 10th minute, and the visitors cracked.
Anthony Watmough attacked the Gold Coast line with tenacity, before offloading in traffic to Hall, who placed his membership in the front rower’s union in sever jeopardy by powering over for his third try in the last two weeks.
Matt Orford added the extras from adjacent to the posts to extend the Sea Eagles advantage to six.
Titans fullback Esi Tonga ran into trouble in his starting debut with a dangerous tackle on Steven Bell, in a match that featured a number of spine-tingling hits, mostly on Gold Coast players.
A bell-ringer from the world’s biggest five-eighth Watmough (he was named at six to allow Menzies to wear his favoured number eleven jumper) on James Stosic gave Manly more attacking ball, and a sweeping second-man play provided Matai with Manly’s second four-pointer in the 22nd minute.
Brett Stewart was denied his 18th try of the season in the 34th minute when David Williams was ruled to have knocked on an Orford kick in the lead up, and the Titans hit back with a 37th minute try to Gavin Cooper against the run of play, to cut the halftime deficit to four.
A remarkable piece of luck resulted in Stewart crossing in the 47th minute. when a last tackle kick from Orford cannoned off Scott Prince’s head and back to Watmough, who surged towards the line before linking with Stewart who crossed for his 47th try in 51 matches at Brookvale.
Watmough then came up with yet another bone-crunching hit, this time on Ben Jeffrey, who knocked on to place the Titans under more sustained pressure.
Matai crossed out wide for his second try following a sweet short ball from Menzies in the 56th minute, with Orford nailing the sideline conversion to give the Sea Eagles their biggest lead of the night at 22-6.
The home side made it two tries in three minutes, again courtesy of a hefty slice of luck.
An Orford grubber took a defection off Titans forward Daniel Conn that wrong-footed fullback Ben Jeffrey, presenting Brent Kite with the Sea Eagles fifth try under the posts.
The Titans crossed for a consolation to winger Jordan Atkins in the 73rd minute to round out the scoring.
Titans coach John Cartwright paid tribute to the fighting qualities of his injury ravaged side, and thought his side was particularly unlucky not to get much closer in the end.
“I though my blokes went out there against probably the minor premiers, and gave as good as they got.
“It killed us those two tries in the second half…there’s not much you can do about ricochets and the bounce of the ball.
“They got 12 in front, and they did what good sides do.”
“Defensively I though Manly were the best we’ve come up against tonight, we haven’t really struggled to score points all year…tonight they just choked us.
Manly mentor Des Halser was also pleased with his side’s application, particularly on the defensive end.
“We certainly did plenty of defense, it was a real grind and we showed plenty of resolve there.
“We’ve got to keep winning, it’s about finishing one-two for us.”
Both coaches were effusive in their praise of the UK-bound Menzies.
“He’s got to go down as one of the all time greats, to consistently play at the level he does.
“Fifteen years at the top level, you won’t see a lot of players do that in the future,” said Cartwright.
According to Hasler: “Its all been said, it was a great tribute for him tonight…and to now have a stand named in his honour, it’s just a tremendous accolade for both him an Bob Fulton.”
The man himself was disappointed he couldn’t get over the line in his final premiership game in front of a bumper crowd.
“I think I was sniffing around for a try for most of that second half, even the ground announcer was saying give the ball to me.
“The support with everyone hanging around, when the old legs were walking around the field it was very nice,” said Menzies.
MANLY 28 (S Matai 2 G Hall B Kite B Stewart tries M Orford 4 goals) bt GOLD COAST 10 (J Atkins G Cooper tries S Prince goal) at Brookvale Oval. Referee: J Robinson. Crowd: 14,755.