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The Manly Sea Eagles have set up a replay of the 2007 Grand Final with a dominant 32-6 defeat of the New Zealand Warriors at the SFS.
The match nearly began with a miracle try to Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei after only five minutes, but the Sea Eagles recovered and were able to gradually settle into their groove. The first try was posted through fullback Brett Stewart in the 12th minute and for the reminder of the first half they continued to apply plenty of pressure in the right parts of the field, while the Warriors seemed to be endlessly working the ball out of their own territory.
A 4-0 halftime scoreline looked likely with some desperate Warriors defence keeping things close, but two tries in the shadows of halftime put a considerable dent in the visitors confidence. Only the wayward conversion attempts of Matt Orford kept the score to 12-0 and gave the Warriors a slight hope of a second half comeback for the second week in a row.
The Warriors came out after the break with a new resolve but their best efforts still weren't able to crack the determined Manly defence. A brief period of domination was abruptly ended with a 48th minute try to Matt Orford against the run of play, and another try only a few minutes later proved to be a real killer blow. Suddenly the Sea Eagles were out to a 22-0 lead, and the body language of the Warriors behind the goalposts showed they had run their race for 2008.
The Sea Eagles will head into next week full of confidence - their attack produced 7 tries, and their defence only leaked one very late consolation try. Goalkicking could be a concern, as they could have easily cracked 40 points if their kicking radar had been on target. Skipper Matt Orford limped from the field towards the end in what could shape up as the mandatory "race against injury" story of Grand Final week.
The Warriors were brave but ultimately looked as though their season had run for one week too long. It was a sad ending for Ruben Wiki and fellow veteran Logan Swann, but the massive surge in interest in New Zealand combined with some key signings for next year should see the Warriors keeping plenty of the late-season fans who had joined up for the ride.
Match Details Manly Sea Eagles 32 def New Zealand Warriors 6 Finals - Week 3 - Saturday September 27th, 2008 7:45pm Venue: Sydney Football Stadium Referee: Shayne Hayne Touch Judges: Steve Chiddy & Jeff Younis Video Referee: Bill Harrigan Crowd: 32,095 Halftime: Sea Eagles 12 Warriors 0
Manly Sea Eagles 32 Tries: Brett Stewart (2), Steve Menzies, Steve Matai, Matt Orford, Glenn Stewart, Michael Robertson Goals: Matt Orford (1/5), Steve Matai (1/2)
New Zealand Warriors 6 Tries: Aiden Kirk Goals: Lance Hohaia (1/1)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Steve Matai (Sea Eagles) 2 Points: Jamie Lyon (Sea Eagles) 1 Point: Brett Stewart (Sea Eagles)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Fine conditions at the SFS, perfect for footy.
Steve Menzies playing his 348th game, Ruben Wiki playing 312th. Both in the their final year of NRL football - one of these two are playing their last game in the NRL. The winning team progresses to next week's grand final to take on the Melbourne Storm.
In the Under 20s curtain raiser, the Brisbane Broncos scored a try on the bell to defeat the New Zealand Warriors 28-26.
TEAMS: Sea Eagles team are as per the card, 1-17 and will start as hot favourites. Warriors are unchanged 1-13 but have trimmed their extended bench with 15. Epalahame Lauaki 17. Grant Rovelli omitted.
SEA EAGLES: 1. Brett Stewart 2. Michael Robertson 3. Steve Bell 4. Steve Matai 5. David Williams 6. Jamie Lyon 7. Matt Orford (c) 8. Brent Kite 9. Matt Ballin 10. Josh Perry 11. Anthony Watmough 12. Glenn Hall 13. Glenn Stewart Interchange: 14. Heath L'Estrange 15. Mark Bryant 16. Jason King 17. Steve Menzies; Reserves: 18. Adam Cuthbertson (1 player to be omitted) WARRIORS: 1. Wade McKinnon 2. Aidan Kirk 3. Brent Tate 4. Jerome Ropati 5. Manu Vatuvei 6. Michael Witt 7. Nathan Fien 8. Ruben Wiki 9. Ian Henderson 10. Steve Price (c) 11. Simon Mannering 12. Ben Matulino 13. Micheal Luck Interchange: 14. Lance Hohaia 16. Sam Rapira 18. Logan Swann 19. Evarn Tuimavave
Teams coming onto the field. Kick off soon...
New Zealand Warriors to kick off.... Manly Sea Eagles to have first use of the ball...
5 min: Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei comes within a whisker of scoring out wide. But amazingly the ball is jolted loose and into arms of Manly centre Steve Bell. A close call and the Sea Eagles are off the hook. Up until then it has been standard no mistake football from both teams.
8-10 min: Manly with a repeat set after Warriors fullback Wade McKinnon kicks the ball dead. Follows a 40m break down the left side from Manly fullback Brett Stewart after he fielded a kick in his own half. At the end of the ensuing set, the ball is batted dead and Manly will get another repeat set.
11 min: Manly get a penalty right in front but kick for touch and are going for the try.
12 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Brett Stewart scores 15m in from touch after being set up by halfback Matt Orford. Conversion attempt Matt Orford goes across the face of goal and is unsuccessful. Manly Sea Eagles 4-0
20 min: Manly looking sharper and faster, especially just wide of the ruck. Warriors hooker Nathan Fien injured but looks OK to continue. Manly veteran Steve Menzies getting ready to come on for his first run of the night.
28-30 min: End-to-end stuff. Possession almost even. Warriors back in the match with a repeat set at the Manly line after they looked like they were struggling for a while. Warriors make a handling error midway through the tackle count, Manly have the ball a few metres out from their goal line.
32 min: Manly now have a repeat set at the other end. A piggy-back penalty followed by a deft grubber kick into the in-goal and Warriors are defending again.
34 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Menzies scores 10m in from touch following some great offloads across the Manly backline. In the end it was a three-man overlap and Menzies was able to score unopposed with support to burn. Conversion attempt by Orford unsuccessful. Manly Sea Eagles 8-0
39 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Centre Steve Matai scores in the corner following some razzle dazzle in the back line - at one point Brett Stewart passed the ball through his legs. Very hard to defend against. Matai survives some video ref scrutiny over the put down. Never in doubt. Orford can't buy a goal - conversion attempt unsuccessful. Manly Sea Eagles 12-0
Half time: Sea Eagles 12-0 Warriors were doing enough to hang in there for most of the first half, and at 8-0 down they were still in the contest. But conceding a try on the stroke of half time means they have all the work to do now. A hot looking Manly enjoying 54% possession and appear to be ready to go on with it, but they have to contend with an opposition that are renowned for their comebacks.
Second half underway...
46 min: Frenetic start to the second half with the Warriors throwing everything at the Sea Eagles, but unable to crack the line.
48 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Orford scores next to the posts after five eighth Jamie Lyon sends forth an up-and-under and regathers his own kick, snatching the ball out of the arms of McKinnon. On the way down to the ground, Lyon pops up a pass to Orford in support. Conversion attempt by Orford successful. Manly Sea Eagles 18-0
51 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Lock forward Glenn Stewart scores out wide after being put into a hole by Lyon. Back-to-back tries to the favourites and it looks to be game, set and match. Conversion attempt by Orford unsuccessful. Manly Sea Eagles 22-0
57 min: Try scorer Glenn Stewart has left the field with a possible hamstring injury and has headed straight for the dressing room.
58 min: Orford limping after twisting an ankle in a tackle. Trying to run it out.
62-63 min: Warriors attacking and keeping the ball alive. Follows a nice bust from Ruben Wiki. Manly hold them out but Warriors have a repeat set. In the next set the ball goes to ground and the Sea Eagles get the scrum feed.
67 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Winger Michael Robertson scores 15m in from touch after Matai attracts two defenders and sends his winger into space. Robertson sprints 40m and fends off the covering tackle from McKinnon along the way. Conversion attempt by Steve Matai successful - usual goal kicker Matt Orford is off the field getting his ankle looked at. Manly Sea Eagles 28-0
69 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Brett Stewart gets a double, running 30m after being put into a gap by Matai up the centre of the park, a movement started bt Matai on the Manly 40m line. Stewart simply turns on the pace and heads to the corner, way too fast for the cover defence. Conversion attempt by Matai unsuccessful. Manly Sea Eagles 32-0
75 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Winger Aiden Kirk survives video ref scrutiny to score just inside the dead ball line and in the corner after chasing a kick. It took 75 minutes of play, but the Warriors are finally on the scoreboard. Tremendous sideline conversion attempt by Lance Hohaia is successful. Manly Sea Eagles 32-6
Full time: Sea Eagles 32-6 Manly simply too good against a gallant Warriors outfit. Sea Eagles looked to have hit top form at the right time of year and should start as favourites in next weekend's grand final against the Storm. For the Warriors, they never stopped trying and should take a lot from a great season where they managed a top four finish after starting from eighth position in the finals. Possession ended up favouring Manly by 55% while the penalties favoured the Warriors 5-3. SFS crowd posted: 32,095