A spectacular second half saw the Raiders and Sea Eagles pushed to Golden Point, where a clutch goal from Dylan Walker sent Manly fans jumping. A 20-18 final score was helped by five second half tries between the two teams, and a tense finish filled with controversy.
Walker gets the last laugh
He is now arguably the biggest villain in Canberra; Dylan Walker kicked the winning goal in the face of taunting Raider players. A questionable penalty against the Green Machine put the Eagles in position, where the Raiders were in no way 10 metres back and decided to resort to un-sportsmanlike taunts to try and put off Walker. Nevertheless, his nerves of steel showed through and Walker banked home the winner off the right post and sent a wave of anger around the ground. Walker’s performance in regular time was also instrumental in their win. His tremendous break gave Manly their second try in 3 minutes, and giving them a 14-12 lead. Walker missed two kicks late on previously, in which could have won the game for Manly. Nevertheless the one that mattered went over in golden point, and the Sea Eagles were victorious.
Walker has made it a habit to break opposing teams hearts, which included a late try against the Roosters to steal a win.
Manly’s production a tale of two halves, again
In the first half Manly had their chances, but were often held out. It was a mixture of great Canberra defence and bad Manly decisions to end sets. Manly’s first half efficiency was brilliant, with 100 percent completion of their sets, compared to Canberra’s 73 percent. Canberra’s kicking game in the first half eclipsed what Manly produced however, managing 203 metres compared to Manly’s 58 metres. The fifth tackle options by Manly were questionable, with both Cherry-Evans and Lawrence being tackled on the fifth without any classy options. Only two points in the first half for the Sea Eagles which came in the first 5 minutes of the game, but towards the end of the half they managed to string together some good attacking sets which prepared them for a strong second half. Tries from Jake Trbojevic and Dylan Walker within 3 minutes of eachother put them in front 14-12, before a Tom Trbojevic try in the 76th minute squared up the scores 18-18.
Manly have lacked consistency this season so far, with games against Souths and Melbourne highlighting such a point, and that must change going forward if Barrett’s men are to be a contender come September.
Papalii making big strides
Papalii has always been a huge runner for the Raiders, but his work in 2017 is getting better and better as the weeks pass. Once again, for what seems to be every game so far this season, Papalii is the main man through the middle, and now rivalling Jason Taumalolo as the best runner in the game. His tremendous force and unstoppable nature partner his quick feet, which seems to be a unique package in the game right now. Papalii’s try in the second half was a spark the Raiders needed to take back control of the game, where he ran over three guys en route to the left side of the field, giving the Raiders a 12-8 lead. Papalii finished the game with 144 running metres, surprisingly one of the lowest of the season for him, and 4th highest among the two teams in the game. Overall he is averaging 155 per game, by far the best of his career. On top of that, Papalii is already on track to score the most tries in a season for him, having 3 after 8 games already, and only needing 5 more to tie his career best. Papalii is without a doubt in line for an Origin spotwith the Maroons, and even a test start for the Kangaroos in the Anzac Test.
Barrett continues to earn respect
The Sea Eagles for me all season have been a dark horse, regardless of the two early losses. Trent Barrett has created a team filled with talent, experience and firepower, and that is all gelling well. The likes of Dylan Walker, Brian Kelly and Jorge Taufua all have statistically upped their games for the Eagles in 2017. Manly have four wins in 8 games, and all 8 games have been against very tough opponents. Wins over the Roosters and Raiders, and a competitive game against the Storm has built up their confidence, and a run for the top 8 is a lock for me. Finals footy in September will see the return of Manly, a long awaited one at that.