GRAND FINAL DAY LOCKED IN | Three big fixtures next Sunday at Sydney's ANZ Stadium! Burleigh and Ill...
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Manly had the opportunity to tie-up the scores before fulltime but they failed to capitalise on five consecutive sets on the Melbourne line.
It was a game that lived up to it's mammoth build-up as both teams displayed their finals credentials with aggressive defence and some brilliant attacking moments.
Whilst Manly looked to dominate extended periods of the game it was Melbourne that showed their class as they struck with tries either side of halftime to drive a nail into the coffin of the game and Manly's hopes of a Minor Premiership.
The reigning Premiers opened the scoring through Mark Geyer who received a beautiful overhead flick pass from a flying Billy Slater. Cooper Cronk, who starred for the visitors, provided the break for Slater with a well-timed inside ball.
Manly were unlucky not to hit back immediately when Brett Stewart picked up the scraps of a Billy Slater spilt bomb however Video Referee Steve Clark penalised Stewart for pushing Anthony Quinn in the back as he blocked the oncoming chasers.
Manly didn't let the dubious call hurt them mentally as they drew level on the scoreboard in the 17th minute thanks to a barnstorming Glenn Hall who barged through three defenders to score.
The forward packs went toe-to-toe for the rest of the half but it was Cronk and Slater who combined again to break the deadlock just before halftime. Cronk chanced his arm with a chip over the defence from his 40m line and it paid dividends as Slater collected the loose ball for Israel Folau to streak 30m and take the visitors to a 10-6 lead at the break.
Cronk took the game by the scruff of the neck eight minutes into the second half when he showed great power to get out of the tackles of Menzies and Watmough to touch down and blow the Storm's lead out to 10.
The game looked to be heading in the same direction as their Grand Final meeting when Melbourne were again putting pressure on Manly's line but the Sea Eagles showed great resolve to hit-back soon after through rookie David Williams.
With the deficit cut to six points the game was played on a knife's edge as momentum see-sawed between each side however Matt Orford's kicking game failed him at times as he was unable to produce the attacking opportunity that Manly required.
Brent Kite was the best forward on ground as he led from the front for Manly and amassed an incredible 154 metres. Glenn Stewart also put in a brave performance as he played with an injured shoulder he hurt in the warm-up to the game. For the Storm Dallas Johnson was everywhere in defence whilst Sika Manu added some good punch up the middle off the bench.
The win means both teams sit a-top of the competition ladder on 32 points however Manly retain first place with their favourable For and Against.
In injury news Manly centre Steve Matai, who was superb in defence all game, hobbled off the field with two minutes remaining whilst Glenn Stewart also suffered a minor leg injury throughout the game.
Match Details Melbourne Storm 16 def Manly Sea Eagles 10 Round 22 - Friday August 8th, 2008 7:35pm Venue: Brookvale Oval Referee: Tony Archer Touch Judges: Steve Carrall, Steve Chiddy Video Referee: Steve Clark Halftime: Sea Eagles 6 Storm 10 Crowd: 18,442
Manly Sea Eagles 10 Tries: Glenn Hall, David Williams Goals: Steve Matai (1/2) Melbourne Storm 16 Tries: Matt Geyer, Israel Folau, Cooper Cronk Goals: Cameron Smith (2/3) Field Goals: Cooper Cronk (0/1) LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Cooper Cronk (Storm) 2 Points: Brent Kite (Sea Eagles) 1 Point: Billy Slater (Storm) LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
Touted as the 'game of the season' this Grand Final rematch will provide a good indication of the team to beat heading into the finals series.
Only one team change for this evening's match with Anthony Watmough making a welcome return to the Manly team as he'll start in the backrow with Luke Williamson dropping to the bench. Jack Afamasaga drops out of the squad.
Following this change the teams will line-up as such:
SEA EAGLES: 1. Brett Stewart 2. Michael Robertson 3. Steve Bell 4. Steve Matai 5. David Williams 6. Steve Menzies 7. Matt Orford (c) 8. Brent Kite 9. Matt Ballin 10. Josh Perry 18. Anthony Watmough 12. Glenn Hall 13. Glenn Stewart Interchange: 11. Luke Williamson 14. Heath L'Estrange 15. Mark Bryant 16. Adam Cuthbertson
STORM: 1. Billy Slater 2. Steve Turner 3. Matt Geyer 4. Israel Folau 5. Anthony Quinn 6. Greg Inglis 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jeff Lima 9. Cam Smith (c) 10. Brett White 11. Michael Crocker 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Dallas Johnson Interchange: 14. Jeremy Smith 15. Adam Blair 16. Sika Manu 17. Antonio Kaufusi
Both teams have plenty to play for with the Minor Premiership up for grabs. Manly have the advantage as they head into the game two-points clear and carry a 35 point better For and Against. However a Melbourne victory can go a long way in the Storm's hopes of claiming a third consecutive Minor Premiership.
Manly have a good record against Melbourne at Brookvale Oval with 5 wins and 1 loss however it will be interesting to see if last year's Grand Final defeat plays on the minds of the home side.
Players making their way out onto the field now in front of a packed Manly stadium.
Glenn Stewart injured his shoulder in the warm-up but will take his place in the game.
1 min: KICKOFF! Referee Tony Archer blows time on and Manly have first use of the football.
1 min: SCRUM Melbourne. Orford throws a forward pass as he looks to get the ball wide early. Melbourne scrum on halfway.
2 min: PENALTY Melbourne. Josh Perry penalised for working the man on the ground. Melbourne tap 20m out.
3 min: BIFF! Kite and Crocker initiate a bit of niggle as both teams run in. Plenty of passion in this one.
3 min: PENALTY Manly. Crocker penalised for his involvement.
4 min: Watmough knocks-on for Manly. Melbourne on the attack 20m out.
5 min: Hoffman toes it through for Melbourne but the ball runs dead. Manly 20m tap.
5 min: Matai loses the ball from the first hit-up and Melbourne back on the attack.
6 min: Inglis flies high for Melbourne but can't come down with the pill and Manly work it away from their line through David Williams.
7 min: Long kick from Orford goes dead. Melbourne 20m tap.
8 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Brilliant try to Melbourne to open the scoring in this match. A Cronk inside ball sends Billy Slater flying through and he does extremely well to draw two defenders and throw the ball inside for the veteran Geyer to score. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 6-0
10 min: POSSIBLE TRY MANLY. Slater mis-judges a swirling Matt Orford bomb and Brett Stewart picks up the scraps to go over for Manly.
12 min: NO TRY Manly, PENALTY Melbourne. Extremely harsh call robs Manly of a try as Brett Stewart is penalised for pushing Quinn away from the ball as he tries to block runners.
16 min: Steven Bell steps his way through from a standing start and is brought down 10m out.
16 min: PENALTY Manly. Off the back of the Bell break Melbourne ruled offside after a quick play-the ball.
17 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles That's the hit-back they needed. Glenn Hall shows great strength and barges through three defenders to go over for Manly. Conversion attempt by Steve Matai successful. 6 all
20 min: PENALTY Manly. David Williams works the ball up and earns a penalty for his team.
22 min: PENALTY Melbourne. Manly penalised for holding the man down too long and Melbourne have a 30m tap.
23 min: Brilliant defence from Manly to hold out Melbourne there. Geyer can't hold an Inglis pass and David Williams works it out for Manly.
25 min: SCRUM Manly. Cronk drives a kick down-field and it goes out just before the corner post. Manly scrum on their 10m line.
27 min: SCRUM Melbourne. Manly have a good set and Orford kicks the ball out for a Melbourne scrum 10m out.
31 min: PENALTY Manly. Lima penalised for being offside from a Cameron Smith kick and Manly have a tap 25m from their line.
32 min: Manly shift the ball wide and Roberton streaks down the touch-line. Orford runs it on the last and does well to get the ball away for Glenn Stewart who puts a kick through and goes close to getting it down just before it goes dead. Melbourne 20m tap.
34 min: PENALTY Manly. The 'Wolfman' David Williams tackled in the air and Manly have a tap 35m out.
35 min: SCRUM Manly. Josh Perry rampages through a hole and is brought down 2m out. Geyer knocks a Matt Orford kick on. Great opportunity for Manly to take the lead.
37 min: SCRUM Melbourne. Watmough goes across field but Perry can't hold a rushed pass and Melbourne have a scrum 10m from their line.
39 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Brilliant try from Melbourne just before half-time. Cronk puts a chip over from his 40m line and Billy Slater does remarkebly well to pick it up off his toes, draw Robertson in defence and get the ball away to Israel Folau to streak 30m down field and score in the corner. And that is why they are the Premiers! Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 10-6
HALFTIME: Melbourne have scored on the stroke of halftime to lead the Manly Sea Eagles 10-6 at the break. The game has lived up to it's hype as a packed house at Brookvale have witnessed a high intensity end-to-end arm wrestle between the two NRL heavy-weights. Manly were extremely unlucky to have a 'No Try' ruled against them straight after Melbourne scored their first try as Brett Stewart was dubiously penalised for pushing a man protecting the catcher. Both teams have thrown everything at each other and whilst Manly looked the have the ascendency in the last 10 minutes of the half Melbourne's try against the run of play will give them plenty of confidence heading into the sheds.
41 min: KICKOFF! Back underway here as Melbourne have first use of the football.
42 min: Poor last-tackle option from Ballin as he kicks from dummy-half and finds Steve Turner on the full.
43 min: SCRUM Manly. Slater kicks the ball to the short-side from dummy-half and finds touch. Manly scrum 10m from their line.
44 min: SCRUM Melbourne. Menzies carries the ball in one hand and loses control of it. Melbourne with the first attacking opportunity of the second half as they have a scrum 25m out.
45 min: SCRUM Melbourne. Big call from Archer as he rules Brett Stewart to have knocked-on into the hands of Lima as they both contest the football. Melbourne scrum 10m out.
48 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Cooper Cronk takes on the line and shows great power to get out of the tackles of Menzies and Watmough to score. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 16-6
50 min: SCRUM Manly. The Sea Eagles go short-side for Robertson to streak down field and Manu knocks a ball back inside on. Manly scrum 25m out.
51 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles The Wolfman Williams is over! Great try from Manly as they make the most of their first attacking opportunity in the second half. They spread the ball the width of field and Menzies draws the defenders for David Williams to go over in the right corner. It's Game On at Brookie! Conversion attempt by Steve Matai unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 16-10
56 min: Slater takes a high Orford bomb in-goal and that has halted the Sea Eagles momentum. Melbourne 20m tap.
56 min: Forward pass from Smith to Hoffman at dummy-half. Manly scrum 30m out.
57 min: SCRUM Melbourne. Coach killer. G. Stewart takes it from the back of the scrum and gives it inside to Bell who knocks it on cold.
60 min: Orford rakes a kick inside for Stewart on the burst and Slater does amazingly well to hold the ball out of the in-goal to avoid a Dropout.
61 min: PENALTY Melbourne. Manly penalised for being offside and that relieves some pressure for the Storm.
63 min: Slater puts a poor kick up for Folau on the wing but he knocks on trying to tap the ball back. Manly have it 35m from their line.
INJURY: Glenn Stewart who had problems before the game with his shoulder is now limping.
66 min: Another tall bomb from Orford is too deep and Slater lets it bounce dead.
INJURY: Greg Inglis on the ground now getting some strapping around the ankle but it doesn't look serious.
68 min: PENALTY Melbourne. David Williams dives on the ball and Quinn picks him up off the ground and drops him on his head which ignites a bit of niggle.
69 min: Another mistake from Beaver as it starts to look promising from Manly.
70 min: PENALTY Melbourne. And now Manly are penalised for putting Anthony Quinn in a dangerous position. Melbourne tap on halfway.
71 min: ATTEMPTED FIELD GOAL Melbourne Storm Cronk hits it wide looking for the 1 point. Melbourne Storm 16-10
75 min: Forward pass from Cameron Smith at dummy-half again. Manly still in it with a scrum 35m out. Are they good enough to win?
75 min: Goal-line Dropout Melbourne. Orford puts a chip in for B. Stewart and Quinn takes it dead.
77 min: SCRUM Manly. Slater knocks-on an Orford grubber and Manly have another chance to level the scores.
78 min: Goal-line Dropout Melbourne. Matai toes the ball through for himself and Turner just hits it dead. Nail-biting finish here.
INJURY: Steve Matai hobbling off.
79 min: Goal-line Dropout Melbourne. Slater toes it dead and Manly have the last chance to ties the score up with 30 seconds to go.
80 min: Manly go side-to-side in the last play of the game but Melbourne just hold on to win a classic encounter at Brookvale Oval.