Eventual 40-12 winners, the Storm came out with a killer focus and were on the board after only 6 minutes through a determined Billy Slater and Cameron Smith. It was obvious the Storm built this up as ‘revenge’ for last years Grand Final – previously missing captain Cam Smith, there was no such void this time – the hooker heavily involved and visibly pumped throughout the game.
For Manly, it was a total ambush. The Sea Eagles had personal problems of their own with forward Glenn Hall sadly losing his new baby, the horrific events in the previous 24 hours obviously having an effect on the tight knit group of mates. The side wearing black arm bands for their teammate who remained in Sydney.
The Eagles too had injury concerns going into this one, with key man Jamie Lyon taking the field but leaving before half time as his shoulder has smashed by a hard running Joseph Tomane. Lyon looked a mess and was quickly benched and draped in ice.
Brent Kite was another early casualty, the prop being knocked out cold after attempting a tackle that went wrong. Kite eventually returned, but was a passenger for most of the match. While 2009 has been an up and down year for Manly, it’s certainly been a horror year for Kite.
After taking man of the match honors in last years Grand Final, Kite has consistently struggled for form and has spent most of 2009 on the Manly bench. He has been unable to recapture his sparkling 2008 form and continues to drift further out.
Even the mercurial Brett Stewart was off his game, sure he’s only been back for a handful of games – but Stewart was dropping the ball cold and looked totally out of place. Skipper Matt Orford was even more lost, his kicking game woeful and the captain not getting the ball several times on the final play made things even worse as the likes of Matai kicked for his side.
Manly were so lost, they had Matai kicking on tackle 3 to try and spark something in attack. It was abysmal.
When one side gets all the momentum like the Storm did in this match, it’s so hard for the opponent to wrestle it back. Almost impossible. Manly did manage to get 5 minutes of a roll on late in the second half and they quickly ran in 2 tries – but it was too little too late.
The Storm now ooze confidence. Their usual suspects, Smith, Slater, Inglis and Cronk are nearing their best and their spare parts forwards are really starting to believe again. Lima and Blair are certainly household names now, but the remainder are lesser knowns – that suddenly feel they deserve their places.
Manly now face a nervous wait and the Storm will be brimming with confidence. Look out the team that faces Melbourne next.