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Manly withstood both the strong Olympic Park wind and a tenacious Melbourne Storm to leapfrog into fifth place on the NRL ladder this afternoon, winning the second Grand Final replay of the season by 20-16.
With a near-gale streaming down the ground for most of the game, kicking games were thrown into disarray as both teams struggled for points and relied on strong defence to keep them in the game. It was the Sea Eagles who cracked first, Brett Finch spotting Joseph Tomane unmarked out wide and putting through a grubber for the home side to open the scoring.
It was all Manly for the rest of the second half though, Matt Orford slowly but surely making the most of the breeze at his back to first nullify the effect of Tomane and fullback Billy Slater on the game, but then also managing a 40/20 to give his side an attacking advantage. David Williams and Kieran Foran both crossed before halftime, giving the 2008 premiers the lead at the break.
Melbourne came exploding out of the blocks in the second half and put Manly immediately on the back foot. A try just over a minute into proceedings put the Eagles on notice before a follow-up effort, Tomane's second, put the home side in front and well and truly in the drivers seat.
It ended up being the wind and the bounce that allowed Manly to reclaim their lead with fifteen minutes to go, Jamie Lyon putting through a low kick that deceived Tomane with it's bounce before getting the ball back himself to score. A penalty goal with a few minutes on the clock gave the visitors a four point buffer - and try as they may, the Storm couldn't cross the line despite the lions share of possession in the closing stages.
The victory puts Manly just one competition point and one rung on the ladder behind the Storm. The Storm will likely keep in front of Manly with their two remaining games against the Roosters next Saturday and then the Warriors seven days after that. The Sea Eagles will enjoy a final two weeks at home, first against Cronulla next Sunday before a battle royale against the Titans the following Saturday.
Tomorrow night the Bulldogs will face the Roosters in Monday Night Football to round out the 24th week of the 2009 NRL season.
Match Details Manly Sea Eagles 20 def Melbourne Storm 16 Round 24 - Sunday August 23rd, 2009 03:00pm Venue: Olympic Park, Melbourne Referee: Tony Archer & Shayne Hayne Sideline Officials: Paul Holland & Brett Suttor Video Referee: Bill Harrigan Crowd: 12,601 Halftime: Melbourne Storm 12 Manly Sea Eagles 4
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Talk about the game as it happens - Storm v Sea Eagles forum discussion - click here!
Atmosphere slowly building at Olympic Park for what is the second last NRL fixture to be held at the ground - next weeks match between the Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters will see the home side bid farewell to their home ground before moving to the fantastic new Rectangular Stadium opening next door early in 2010.
Today however, it's the second Grand Final rematch of the season. The Storm were too strong at Brookie earlier in 2009, a 22-8 victory. In team news - we'll have the full teams shortly but we can confirm for sure and certain we won't be seeing Brett Stewart today. Heath L'Estrange will also miss out for the reigning premiers.
Those team changes are in - the Storm are missing Brett Anderson off the wing - goalkicking prodigy Joseph Tomane is in for him. Tolman and Blair swap spots further down the teamsheet. Manly's Chris Bailey drops back to the bench, Shane Rodney to start in jersey #18. As above, L'Estrange will not be seen today.
STORM: 1. Billy Slater 2. Steve Turner 3. Will Chambers 4. Dane Nielsen 18. Joseph Tomane 6. Brett Finch 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Scott Anderson 9. Cam Smith 10. Brett White 15. Adam Blair 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Dallas Johnson Interchange: 11. Aiden Tolman 14. Ryan Hinchcliffe 16. Ryan Tandy 17. Jeff Lima SEA EAGLES: 1. Michael Robertson 2. Ben Farrar 3. Jamie Lyon 4. Steve Matai 5. David Williams 6. Kieran Foran 7. Matt Orford (c) 8. Jason King 9. Matt Ballin 10. Josh Perry 11. Anthony Watmough 18. Shane Rodney 13. Glenn Stewart Interchange: 12. Chris Bailey 15. Brent Kite 16. George Rose 17. Glenn Hall
The national anthem rings out over Olympic Park, we're close to a start.
Manly's out there, the Storm are about to venture down the tunnel. Here they come! Steve Turner runs through a banner commemorating his 100th game for the club. He heads to Canterbury in 2010.
Kickoff: We're in business at Olympic Park for the Grand Final re-match Mk II.
1 min: Matt Orford has an attack of the dropsies on the second tackle. Storm scrum feed inside the first minute.
2 min: PENALTY Storm - Josh Perry goes high. Melbourne with their third set on the Manly line now.
3 min: Three well defended sets from the Eagles, the Cam Smith's fifth tackle grubber goes dead, it'll be a 20m restart.
5 min: Finch knocks on, tackle five on halfway. Manly scrum feed, they'll have their first attacking chance today.
7 min: The short in-goal troubling Manly this time, Jamie Lyon putting a grubber in that simply has too much legs.
8 min: PENALTY Storm - another high tackle with the Storm coming off their own line. Melbourne to attack again. They manage to get a better grubber in this time on tackle five and Manly force the ball. Drop-out.
11 min: TRY Melbourne Storm A good break puts Brett White in front of the posts on the last, and as the Storm go left, Brett Finch puts a grubber out wide for Joseph Tomane to score! Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith goes across the face - the wind pushing the ball around strongly today and it's missed. Melbourne Storm 4-0
13 min: Cooper Cronk fumbles the kickoff over his head and it's flown over the dead ball line. Drop-out now.
14 min: A very intelligent drop-out from Cam Smith, he puts it clear over the touchline on the bounce, the Storm earn the scrum without having given up possession to Manly.
17 min: Positive attacking footy from Melbourne but they can't get over the line on this set, Glenn Stewart gets the scraps and Manly will work it away.
20 min: Manly's kicking game terrible thus far, the Storm are starting sets on or close to halfway and doing little to challenge the back three of the Melbourne side.
25 min: VIDEO REFEREE - Possible Sea Eagles try. It's gotten a bit messy on the last, Glenn Stewart has booted it into the Storm line, regathered and the ball before getting it out to David Williams who looks to have scored.
26 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles The Footballer formerly known as Wolfman gets his first try of the afternoon. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford successful. Manly Sea Eagles 6-4
27 min: PENALTY Sea Eagles - from the kickoff Chris Bailey spilled the ball but Ryan Hoffman took him slightly high just a moment later. Easy metres for the Eagles.
29 min: PENALTY Storm - George Rose compounds the error with a penalty for a high tackle. Storm go on the attack.
32 min: Steve Turner take a cross-field banana kick from Cronk, then puts on a chip-chase of his own. Robertson looks like he's obstructed Turner on his way through but the Manly fullback couldn't have moved. Play on, Manly coming away with it.
INJURY UPDATE: Lyon (Sea Eagles - shoulder) and Rodney (Sea Eagles - suspected broken hand) are both off the park.
34 min: Orford with a massive 40/20, the wind at his back making it easy.
36 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Soft defence from the Storm sees the young bloke Kieran Foran cross the line beside the posts, Manly extend their lead. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford successful. Manly Sea Eagles 12-4
Kieran Foran limping back into position after that try, they'll keep an eye on him...
38 min: ATTEMPTED FIELD GOAL Manly Sea Eagles Matt Orford has a stab at field goal with only two minutes on the clock to halftime... it's gone wide though. Storm 20m restart. Manly Sea Eagles 12-4
40 min: Manly's last roll of the dice looks promising until a Chris Bailey knock-on sends us to halftime.
HALFTIME: Manly Sea Eagles 12 Melbourne Storm 4 Great turnaround from the Sea Eagles following a terrible start, errors aplenty making way for a couple of good tries. Melbourne dominated early but haven't been able to maintain it. The wind has been the biggest talking point of the game, not allowing either side to plan any elaborate plays. Should be a cracking second half.
The teams file back onto Olympic Park for the second half of this windy battle.
41 min: Twelve seconds and it's a PENALTY to the Storm.
42 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Slater gets it perfectly out for Will Chambers, but Cameron Smith will be cursing him as he places the ball right in the corner. The Storm captain lines up the kick... he's had to get the tryscorer Chambers in to hold it on the tee due to the wind... Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful! What a kick! Manly Sea Eagles 12-10
45 min: A spirited set from the Storm and they get within 10m before being forced to hand it over on the last. The home side has come out strongly in this second half.
47 min: A drop ball from Melbourne on halfway invites Manly to attack for the first time in the second half.
48 min: VIDEO REFEREE - Possible Sea Eagles try. Michael Robertson goes in down the flank... the first replay says it all, never got near the line, bundled into touch. NO TRY.
51 min: TRY Melbourne Storm They spread the ball wide Melbourne, it finds Tomane with space, he's got the pace! He'll score in the corner! We've got Chambers in again to hold the ball on the tee for Smith... Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful... he's pushed it wide and it's curled back in - reminiscent of an El Masri effort at Shark Park a few years ago. The wind here is remarkable. Melbourne Storm 16-12
56 min: Slater does well to take a towering Matt Orford bomb. His fumbling form of last Monday against the Knights seems long forgotten as the Storm begin to take control of this one.
58 min: Hinchcliffe makes a break to put Melbourne in a good position but that's as far as it goes, the next play sees Tomane put over the touchline easily.
60 min: Michael Robertson streaks away down the left side, Manly on the attack now!
61 min: Line drop-out, it's repeat sets for the maroon and whites now.
64 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles A grubber from Jamie Lyon bounces terribly for Joseph Tomane and finishes up in Lyon's arms, he scores the try to level things up.... now the conversion - successful from Matt Orford. Manly Sea Eagles 18-16
68 min: A final tackle scrap on the Storm line results in a handover from the Eagles to the home side, Melbourne will work it out of their own half now.
70 min: Double knock-on, first Manly then Melbourne, the Storm will get the feed just on halfway. Manly looked dangerous down the right flank before the error...
71 min: David Williams has come up with the error on his own line, Melbourne with a scrum on the ten metre line. Cronk goes from the scrumbase... he's over.... but the ball's come out and gone dead! Manly 20m restart.
72 min: Another Manly error gives Melbourne possession within sight of the line. This raid also coming up empty for the Storm, Cronk's last tackle kick fielded by Matai.
73 min: A knock-on centrefield again, this time it's ruled Melbourne tocuhed it. Manly feed just short of halfway.
75 min: PENALTY GOAL Manly Sea Eagles The Storm concede a penalty right in front of their own posts. Orford has no trouble adding two more. Manly Sea Eagles 20-16
77 min: Not the best last tackle kick from Manly, Slater returns the ball to halfway on the first.
78 min: Last tackle panic from Melbourne sees the Eagles come up with the ball. Tackle four and Steve Matai is down and not looking good.
79 min: The last tackle kick from Lyon this time is a similar story, not deep enough. Melbourne on the attack now.
80 min: Slater's through and one to beat!!!! He throws the ball in-field and Manly's got it! That could be the ball-game, inside the final minute.
FULLTIME: Manly Sea Eagles 20 Melbourne Storm 16 A tough victory for the Manly Sea Eagles, withstanding a final ten minute onslaught from Melbourne to hold on and win 20-16.