The Sea Eagles dominated all areas of the field on Friday night, in a strong 18-12 win against an unbeaten Roosters side coming into the match. The game sees Manly exit feeling like a real contender, while the Roosters boasted a valiant effort and should in no way feel discouraged.
Manly execute an all-round performance
I said before I thought the Sea Eagles would be a great side in 2017, and that is finally being shown. The Roosters came into this matchup top of the table, and unfazed by Manly’s forward-pack challenge. That though was not the case, as Manly looked like a driven and inspired team on Friday night.
The Sea Eagles led from the middle out, with their forwards completely dominating anything the Roosters had to offer. Both Napa and Waerea-Hagreaves were neutralised by Manly’s front row in particular, committing three men in most of the tackles. On top of their early struggles, Napa’s departure from the field meant the Roosters would have to dig deeper and deeper, which simply did not work for them. Manly’s backline, with Walker and Uate in particular, played out of their skin, with Uate executing professional ball carries and decision making. Their early on defence was also sublime, holding out the Roosters successfully (bar one occasion in Kenny-Dowall’s try). Barrett’s methods are finally clicking for the side, and everyone is playing their part.
Walker’s form rises
Ever since moving north to the rich beaches from Redfern, Walker has failed to find any sort of consistent form. This season though, Walker could be in line for Origin consideration with a great performance against the Roosters. Walker finished with the second most running metres with 202 to teammate Jorge Taufua, and finished with two line breaks, the most in the game.
Most importantly, he came through at the right moment. A great ball from Kelly opened up the Roosters backline and Walker sprinted off to the right side of the field, outrunning both Gordon and Tupou. The conversion on the sideline was sweet icing on what was secured as a Manly victory. Walker averages 125.4 metres per game in 2017 so far, the most of his career, and with a host of talent around him, it is logical to say his form will only rise from here.
Napa’s injury a concern
Dylan Napa is one of the biggest hitters in the game, and partnering Waerea-Hagreaves forms a formidable font row. Though 17 minutes into the game, Napa limped from the field with an ankle injury that would keep him out of the game. The injury is presumed to be serious, in which Napa may miss a lengthy time.
Napa had amassed 49 run metres and 9 tackles in that period of time, and speaking on average, were the best numbers by a Rooster that evening. The year so far has not been his best statistically, but Napa’s 2016 was a career year in almost all categories. He averaged 32.5 tackles a game, and 122 run metres. His workload has decreased this year with the help of his forward pack, who all have pitched in at the right times, but in no way should discount the physical impact he has. Therefore, he will be sorely missed and the Roosters will need some of their substitutes to step up.
Manly’s backline beginning to click
Uate’s coolness under the high ball has given the indication to the solidity of Manly’s back line for this season. Until now the Fijian had not provided a spark we as fans are so accustomed to, but Uate put on a strong performance at Allianz, seeing him targeted consistently with high balls. The Roosters decided to kick to the left edge and try and target him, which completely backfired where he had no sorts of trouble.
Uate added 87 kick return metres, while his fellow winger Jorge Taufua led the team in with 252, adding a try from a brilliant lofted pass from Tom Trbojevic. Brian Kelly once again had a strong outing, and has scored a combined seven tries in 2017 with centre counterpart Dylan Walker. Led by the brilliant Cherry-Evans who stepped up in defence this week, accounting for a season-best 37 tackles, the Eagles are looking like a well-oiled machine.
Sea Eagles: 18
Tries: Taufua (18m), Walker (2) (65m, 79m)
Goals: Walker 2/3
Tries: Kenny-Dowall (14m), Pearce (70m)
Goals: Gordon 2/2
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