A gutsy defensive effort by the Manly Sea Eagles allowed them to see off the fancied Bulldogs tonight in a grinding war of attrition at Telstra Stadium.
Manly: The Manly side of 2007 is still undefeated after a solid showing tonight, and interestingly they still have Orford, Menzies and Matai out injured. Manly saw plenty of ball in this match, due to the Dogs giving away the pill on early tackles and having to defend for long periods. I thought Manly really should have scored more points with the ball they had, very similar to last week when they played the Warriors – but full credit to them, they won the game with brutal and relentless defence. Monaghan continues to be the standout player for Manly, with creative attack and impressive defence – at one stage hitting Sonny Bill Williams with a jolting tackle and forcing the ball loose. Monaghan is not far behind the form of Jonathan Thurston, and that’s a big call. The Manly forwards tonight really contained Willie, Shrek and SBW – and full credit must go to them. Kite was pushing over the advantage line constantly and Choc Watmough was doing the same. Jamie Lyon marked SBW all night and rarely let him move, an impressive effort as SBW is such a handfull. Manly’s backs I felt were a little quiet, with Brett Steward not given much room to move and Chris Hicks making some poor decisions at times and coughed some ball. The kicking game from Manly was near perfect. Several times the Eagles were pinned in their own 30m area, and classy clearing kicks from Burns and Monaghan got them out of strife. This was also combined by an impressive short kicking game, proving the winner for Manly in the end – as Monaghan chipped over the top and regathered (Phil Blake Style) and sent Steve Bell in for the try. The Eagles face the Titans next week in what should be a great battle of defence vs attack.
Bulldogs: Too much dropped ball. I have rarely seen the Bulldogs surrender such ball, they turned it over often and on early tackles. In the first half the Dogs had less then 45% of the ball, and a completion rate of 50% – it was amazing they were still in the game, lucky they defended stoutly or it was shut the gate. Sonny Bill is still finding his rhythm, he looks stunning at times – but then goes missing or throws a silly pass. Willie was penetrating tonight, however Shrek was his usual aggressive self and always made yards and punished in defence. Ben Roberts is playing well at half, but found it hard behind the forwards tonight – I can understand why he is keeping Sherwin out of the top grade – Folkes is on to a future star here. But other then McCalwain the rest of the side were very average, even the General was a little quiet – the Dogs won’t walk away totally without confidence, which is lucky – as they face the inform Eels at Parramatta next week in what should be a top game.
Summary: Bulldogs gave away too much ball, and wasted too much energy in defence. The Eagles, while a little stunted in attack – did enough in defence and had just enough guts and spark to win the game. When the Eagles play at their best, it will be impressive. The Dogs won’t lose sleep over this one – big game next week against the Eels.
Manly 16 (M Robertson, C Hicks, S Bell tries; J Lyon 2 conversions)
Bulldogs 14 (D McIlwain, SB Williams tries; H El Masri 2 conversions, 1 penalty)
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