Fifty Years Ago - Round 18 1971

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George's weekly look at the NSWRFL 1971 season is in - looking back at Round 18.

The preview of this weeks' ‘Match of the Round' between Manly and Souths centred on the loss of key Rabbitoh players, especially prop forward Dennis Lee.  Earlier in the week Malcolm Reilly and Norm Pounder withdrew from the Manly team and the weight of the respective forward packs dominated pre-game punditry.   

Manly (13) defeated Souths (12) and the scrummaging ability and experience of their pack was crucial to their victory, according to Alan Clarkson in the Sunday Herald.  Clarkson described the match as "magnificent" and the closeness of the scores, kept the crowd enthralled.  Locked 7-7 at half time, the lead changed hands four times during the 2nd half.    

The Manly front row of Bill Hamilton, Fred Jones and Peter Peters dominated the scrums and Souths struggled to gain possession in vital stages of the match. In fact, winning scrums or not, might have influenced Souths Bob McCarthy when (close to the Manly try line and his team leading 12 - 10), he decided on the 6th tackle to kick the ball instead of holding it and competing for possession in the scrum.  In the sheds after the match McCarthy said "If I ever kick a ball again, you can cut my leg off. All I had to do was take the tackle and we win the match".   

Instead, McCarthy kicked, Manly half Graham Williams caught the ball and ran 15 yards.  2nd row forward Lindsay Drake then stormed deep into Souths territory before linking with Bob Fulton, who passed to Derek Moritz who was tackled inside the Souths quarter. Moritz played the ball and it went through four sets of hands before centre John McDonald scored out wide.  Manly had won, with 20 seconds to spare. Interestingly Manly Coach Ron Willey instructed his team to kick a field goal straight after half time and half Graham Williams complied in the 42nd minute. It proved to be the winning kick.  

Sunday saw 5 matches played. Three were of little consequence and the crowd numbers told their own story.  

Last placed North Sydney (13) defeated eighth placed Easts (11) in front of just 2,030 paying customers at North Sydney Oval.  Cronulla 22 defeated Wests 13, at Lidcombe Oval and many of the 2,641 local fans started leaving 20 minutes into the 2nd half.  Finally, Penrith (26) defeated Newtown (9) and while the home team are still a minute chance of sneaking into the top 4, just 2,250 fans turned up to cheer the home team on.  

Meanwhile,  in the city, 4th placed Parramatta (21) defeated Balmain (10) in their clash at the Sports Ground.  The Tigers gave up their home ground advantage and hoped to stay in touch with the top 4, via a victory over the Eels. It was not to be.  Parramatta responded strongly to last week's tongue lashing by coach Ian Walsh and with forwards Dennis Fitzgerald and Bob O'Reilly running amok, the result was never in doubt. Fitzgerald scored two tries and along with team-mate O'Reilly he was rewarded by selection in the team for next Saturday's third match against Queensland. Geoff Starling from Balmain was also chosen for NSW but not because of the effort from his team yesterday.  Tigers Coach Leo Nosworthy was too disappointed to comment for the press. 

In the last match in Round 18 St George (19) defeated Canterbury (7).  Canterbury started the season poorly and were last after round 4 and 11th after round 8.  Despite just two wins in their first eight matches Canterbury fought their way to 5th place outright after last week's win over Souths. Thus, this match against Saints became a must win, for Canterbury.  Alan Clarkson, at the Herald praised the St George team for their professional approach. Saints took the lead after 21 minutes and despite the poor playing conditions, delivered safety first rugby league, making few errors and blunting the Canterbury attack.  The team in blue and white could only manage to score one try and their season, despite their dramatic improvement over the last 9 weeks was washed away, by the weekend rains.