|Match Date||20th Sep, 2014|
|Venue||Sydney Football Stadium (Allianz Stadium)|
There was plenty of feeling in this one. You could feel the niggle, the sledge, the hate. And that was just between Manly’s senior playing group in the warm-up. Once the game proper began, however, the Sea Eagles showed less fight. Save for Josh Starling punching Josh Jackson in the head – with his good arm, not the one that was nearly dismembered in a chicken-wing tackle – there would have been very little resistance in the first half at all.
But, just like the game the previous evening, a match which should have finished a whitewash morphed into a thriller. A golden-point shootout, no less. In the same year as he steered NSW to a breakthrough series victory, Trent Hodkinson kicked a field goal to seal it for his team. Again. This time, they are just one win away from a grand final.
The Sea Eagles gave their rivals a 16-point start then ran it down. And how. When Cheyse Blair scored to level things up late, all hell broke loose. Reni Maitua threw a punch and became the second person to be binned for doing so. Just weeks after he patted Cameron Smith on the head, Justin Horo did the same thing to Ennis, the man who gifted the try. You can’t make this stuff up.
And just when you had seen it all, Josh Reynolds earned his team a repeat set by, of all things, kicking the ball into the referee. Had Josh Morris not reminded the referee of the rule, Hodkinson’s first field goal, later cancelled out by one from Daly Cherry-Evans, would not have been possible.
In his 200th game, Brett Stewart was scoring tries and attempting field goals. Both forward packs played themselves to a standstill. It took 84 minutes to separate them. The sum result is a Canterbury-Penrith preliminary final.
Those at Allianz Stadium may have also seen the decline of an empire. Manly have been involved in every finals series for a decade, taking the prize on two occasions. Hate has been the basis of this success, channelled against the opposition, the establishment, against slights real and imagined. But never before have the players turned on themselves. Yet for 80 minutes a week, they don the maroon and all is forgotten. They almost did it again.
The games had begun well before the whistle was blown. The Sea Eagles side which ran out bore little resemblance to the one named on Tuesday. But no matter how much you shuffle the deck, there’s no replacing Matt Ballin, Jamie Buhrer, Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart. The club is going to have to soon get used to dealing without two of them permanently.
Des Hasler was right when he said the finals are an altogether different competition. Canterbury were doing it so easy they didn’t know where to hit their opponents. They spun the ball left and scored. They went to the right and scored. And when they went straight up the guts, the result was the same. And yet, for all of their dominance of possession and field position in the first half, all they had to show for it was a 10-point lead. One can only imagine the bake Hasler would have given his Dogs for clocking off and letting the opposition hooker, Jayden Hodges, in 12 seconds before oranges.
The most dangerous Eagle was the one who finished last weekend’s game in a medicab. When Hodges was on there was an attacking spark that was extinguished when he returned to the bench. Every Sea Eagle played above himself in the second half.
The Bulldogs had many contributors. Props James Graham and Aiden Tolman look similar and posted similarly impressive figures. Ennis was determined not to let this be his last game in blue and white. But the night again belonged to Hodkinson.
For the second week in a row, Hasler will be up against his former club. The premiership-winning coach played two seasons at the foot of the mountains before shifting to the northern beaches in 1984. More recently, it was rumoured Hasler was the man the Panthers wanted him succeed Matt Elliott . Another subplot in an amazing finals series.
Source: The Sun Herald
|Josh Reynolds||Five Eighth||0||0||0||0|
|Trent Hodkinson||Half Back||0||1||2||4|
|Josh Jackson||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Tony Williams||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|James Graham||Front Row||0||0||0||0|
|Aiden Tolman||Front Row||0||0||0||0|