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The Manly Sea Eagles have out-classed the St George Illawarra Dragons in front of 10530 fans at Kogarah's Jubilee Oval tonight, giving themselves an outright lead at the top of the table.
The match wrapped up an emotional round of football which will forever be remembered as "Rise For Alex" Round with everyone in Rugby League banding together in a tremendous show of support for an inspirational young man.
The Dragons came out breathing fire early, clearly motivated by their former team mate McKinnon and were winning the early battle for field position. They earned themselves a penalty and ended up with three straight attacking sets on Manly's line. The Sea Eagles defence held firm though and Dragons five-eight Gareth Widdop opted to take the two points after his team received another penalty in the 9th minute.
It didn't take too long for Manly's class to shine through with centre Steve Matai scoring the first try of the night in the 21st minute after bursting onto the end of a trademark backline movement in which Brett Stewart threw the last pass. Lyon kicked the conversion from the sideline to give his team a 6-2 lead.
From the ensuing set of six Manly would score again through Foran who picked up a loose ball which was knocked down by Dragons winger Nightingale whilst Matai was trying to pass after his break down the left. Lyon missed the conversion but Manly had a 10-2 lead and were looking in great touch with the ball in hand.
The Dragons showed some brave defence for the rest of the half however, turning numerous attacking raids from Manly away and coming up with a try of their own. In the 38th minute, Dragons halfback Benji Marshall strolled through a yawning gap after a switch of play for Widdop to drift across field and send his halves partner over. Widdop added the extras reducing the deficit to two heading into the halftime break.
Both teams battled to gain the upper hand in the early stages of the second half, but it was ultimately a Dragons error which turned the game in Manly's favour. Winger Brett Morris in his first game back since Origin one put down a pass 5m out from his own line from Adam Quinlan. It was all the invitation the visitors needed and Tom Symonds stormed onto a classy face ball from his halfback Daly Cherry-Evans in the 54th minute. Lyon added the extras to extend the lead to 16-8.
Manly crossed again five minutes later through winger Jorge Taufua who crashed over in the corner after a nice cut out pass from Stewart giving his team a twelve point lead.
The Dragons had countless opportunities to get back into the contest attacking their opposition's line, but the tough as always Manly defence wouldn't budge. The boot of Cherry-Evans would seal the game for Manly with a drop out rolling into touch giving his team the ball back and some much needed field position. He was quick to take advantage piloting a field goal over in the 76th minute, putting the game beyond doubt.
The home team scored a consolation try through Nightingale moments later but it was all too late.
Next week the Dragons will be desperate for a win to stay in touch with the top eight when they take on the Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, whilst Manly will travel across the ditch to take on the Warriors on the same day at Mt Smart Stadium.
1 point - Kieran Foran
TEAM NEWS | Dragons bring in Brett Morris for his first match since Origin I. Charly Runciman misses out as a result. On the bench, Shane Pumipi makes way for Nathan Green. Jack Stockwell will wear #16 in honour of his mate Alex McKinnon.
Manly's changes are small - Jamie Lyon trades in #3 for #16 in honour of McKinnon, while on the bench James Hasson drops out to be replaced by Tyson Andrews.
Welcome to Jubilee Oval, Kogarah for this Monday night football clash between the St George Illawarra Dragons and Manly Sea Eagles. Tonight will be the final match in what has been a memorable and emotional round of footy. A BIG CONGRATS to all players, fans and everyone involved in Rugby League for uniting together as one and "Rising For Alex"
Tonight's contest should be a cracker with both teams in good form winning four out of their last five games. The Dragons will be looking to move into a share of 6th place on the ladder with a win tonight. While Manly can become outright competition leaders if they go home with the two points.
Players walking out and lining up as they "Rise For Alex".
1: Play is underway at Kogarah with Dragons getting 1st use
3: A solid 1st set for the Saints with Widdop finding touch 5 out from Manly's line
4: As always, Manly looking to spread the ball early, Dragons defence firm early though
5: Widdop puts up a midfield bomb but DCE cleans up the loose ball
6: Nightingale comes up with a good catch under the high ball
7: PENALTY Dragons & Benji takes the quick tap but gets called back as the penalty was for inside the 10
7: Dragons on the attack 20 out
7: Another penalty Dragons...
9: And another penalty to the Dragons & Widdop will shoot for 2. Mark that down as a win to Manly's defence
10: SUCCESSFUL PENALTY GOAL ST. GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Penalty goal attempt by Gareth Widdop successful.
Widdop kicks it through to give his team an early lead
11: Benji kicks deep to the corner on the 4th trapping Manly deep in their own end
12: Widdop puts up a bomb but Stewart takes it under pressure
14: Battle for field position going the Dragons away at the moment, Manly scrum 20m from their line
15: PENALTY Manly against Ben Creagh for holding down too long
15: 1st chance for Manly to attack...
16: DCE puts a grubber in & Quinlan picks up the loose ball on the run
17: Benji again finds touch 10 out from Manly's line
18: 100% completion rate for both teams so far
19: Creagh makes a half break.
19: Benji kicks touch in goal
21: TRY MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Scored by Steve Matai. Kick to come.
Manly spread it to the left with Foran & Stewart setting up Matai to score in the corner
22: SUCCESSFUL CONVERSION MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Conversion attempt by Jamie Lyon successful.
Lyon kicks it from the sideline
24: VIDEO REF possible Manly try after a break down the left
24: TRY MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Scored by Kieran Foran. Kick to come.
TRY for Foran. Matai made another break down the left & had the ball knocked down from Nightingale as he was trying to pass. Foran picked up the loose ball to dive over
24: UNSUCCESSFUL CONVERSION MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Conversion attempt by Jamie Lyon unsuccessful.
Lyon pushes this one away to the right
26: Lyon stabs a kick through on the last & it rolls touch in goal
27: Benji puts it up high & Hiku flies high for the take
28: Manly kick rolls dead, Dragons 20m tap
29: Nightingale comes up just short of scoring after a Marshall bomb creates an opportunity
30: Tom Symonds stays down in the tackle & the Penalty will come after Thompson got him high
31: Steve Matai limping off for Manly
30: Manly ball 30m out from Saints line
31: Repeat set after Dugan knocks it dead from a Foran kick
33: Another set for Manly, Ballin forcing it with a grubber from dummy half
34: VIDEO REF for a possible Manly try, checking for obstruction...
35: NO TRY, penalty Dragons
35: They fail to find touch though!
36: Creagh & Dugan both receiving treatment from the trainers as play is stopped
35: Back underway
35: Foran kicks it high across field & Widdop defuses it
36: Dragons getting some good second phase play going & earn themselves a penalty
38: TRY ST. GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Scored by Benji Marshall. Kick to come.
Marshall strolls through a huge hole to score off a Widdop pass
39: SUCCESSFUL CONVERSION ST. GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Conversion attempt by Gareth Widdop successful.
Widdop hits it through sweetly
40: UNFORCED ERROR ST. GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Joel Thompson makes an unforced error.
Thompson fumbles a tough pass around his bootlaces
40: Dragons hang on in defence just on halftime
40: HALF TIME at Kogarah & Manly take a narrow lead into the sheds. The Dragons looked good early winning the battle for field position, they were unable to capitalise though settling for a 2 point lead. Manly's classy backline soon clicked into gear giving them 2 tries down the left in quick succession. Dragons dug in after that though and claimed a late try of their own to set up what should be a good 2nd half of footy. Stay tuned!
40: Players coming back out now
41: Back underway, Lawrence brings it back for Manly
41: Morris defuses a DCE bomb in the 1st set
41: PENALTY Manly, they have it 40m out from Dragons line
44: PENALTY Manly, another chance to score
46: Good defence Dragons holding out back to back sets
46: PENALTY Dragons, they'll get their chance to attack now
48: VIDEO REF possible Dragons try...
48: NO TRY, Nightingale knocks on in trying to force it
48: PENALTY Manly, they have it 45m out from Saints line
49: UNFORCED ERROR MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Dunamis Lui makes an unforced error.
Lui fumbles it, Dragons ball 10 out from their line
50: PENALTY Dragons, another ruck penalty
52: Dragons spread it to the right, but Manly's defence slides well to cover & force Nightingale to throw a loose pass
53: UNFORCED ERROR ST. GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Brett Morris makes an unforced error.
Morris knocks on after Quinlan tries to spread it on his own goal line. Manly scrum 10 out
54: TRY MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Scored by Tom Symonds. Kick to come.
Symonds charges onto a flat ball from DCE
55: SUCCESSFUL CONVERSION MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Conversion attempt by Jamie Lyon successful.
Lyon adds the extras from close range
57: Manly complete their set after points & Morris brings it back for the Dragons
58: Stewart dives on a loose ball after a wayward Marshall bomb
59: Manly will get a scrum 10 out from Dragons line after Quinlan fumbles a DCE bomb
60: TRY MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Scored by Jorge Taufua. Kick to come.
Taufua crosses in the corner after Foran & Stewart again set it up
61: UNSUCCESSFUL CONVERSION MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Conversion attempt by Jamie Lyon unsuccessful.
Lyon from the sideline hooks to the left
62: PENALTY Manly, again in the ruck for holding down too long
63: Manly on the attack...
64: Dragons scramble in defence & force Hiku into touch, Scrum for Dragons 10m out from their own line
65: surging run from Dugan putting his team on the front foot
66: Repeat set after Hiku beats Morris to a Widdop grubber
68: Another set for Dragons coming with DCE cleaning up a Beale grubber
70: Another grubber forced dead giving Dragons another set to attack..
71: Dugan drops after coming to the left to attack
72: UNFORCED ERROR MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Steve Matai makes an unforced error.
Matai drops it in the play the ball
74: Another repeat set with Foran forcing a Mitch Rein grubber in goal
75: DCE drop out bounces into touch giving Manly the ball back 40m out from their line
74: PENALTY Manly & they will have a chance to put this game to bed..
75: Lyon will shoot for 2
75: UNSUCCESSFUL PENALTY GOAL MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Penalty goal attempt by Jamie Lyon unsuccessful.
Lyon hooks it to the left
77: SUCCESSFUL FIELD GOAL MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Field goal attempt by Daly Cherry-Evans successful.
DCE kicks the field goal giving Manly a 13 point buffer
77: PENALTY Dragons, they have a chance to hit back
79: TRY ST. GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Scored by Jason Nightingale. Kick to come.
Acrobatic finish to Nightingale diving over after a long looping pass from Marshall
79: UNSUCCESSFUL CONVERSION ST. GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Conversion attempt by Gareth Widdop unsuccessful.
79: Crunching tackle from Matai on Marshall
79: VIDEO REF possible Dragons try...
79: NO TRY as the ball comes off Manly into touch
79: PENALTY Dragons, another chance to score
79: FULL TIME with Manly moving clear at the top of the table after what ended up a comfortable victory. Thanks for joining us & stay tuned for the match report coming soon