With the finals on the horizon, and a testing few weeks ahead of them, the Manly Sea Eagles had an opportunity to put their best foot forward and consolidate a Top 4 spot against the Tigers. The Tigers had found some form and much needed confidence against the Knights two weeks earlier, so they were looking to ruin Manly’s plans. They almost did it too.
Api Finally a Happy Hooker
Daly Cherry-Evans is in arguably career best form, and receiving plenty of praise for how he is going about things, but he isn’t the only one doing well for the Sea Eagles. The Trbojevic brothers are getting better and better. Dylan Walker has found himself again in the centres and big Marty Taupau is starting to find the consistency that had been missing. Another player to impress during Manly’s surge has been hooker Api Koroisau.
It’s fair to say that Api took a while to find his feet after leaving Souths on such a high note in 2014. His stint at Penrith didn’t work out the way anyone wanted and he struggled last season as well in a struggling team when he first joined the Sea Eagles. However, 2017 has seen the re-emergence of the player we saw glimpses of in South Sydney’s premiership year. His improvement in form and Manly’s improvement on the NRL ladder is no coincidence. The value of a talented hooker in the modern game cannot be underestimated and his strong play has definitely helped his teammates produce the type of football they are currently playing. Api finally looks comfortable in Manly colours and he is definitely giving the Manly spine a very strong look to it.
Winning Ugly Won’t Cut It For Long
If you were to describe Manly’s win in this game, it would be along the lines of “It wasn’t great, but Manly will take it.” It was a strange game in that the team who scored two tries in the first eleven minutes actually went into the sheds down by two, then had a try scored against them early in the second half to be down by eight. A combination of poor defensive errors (a badly missed tackle on their line gifted the Tigers their first try), some lazy ball handling led to the Tigers scoring again soon after (an innocuous grubber bounced through the hands of the defender on his own line), and some good luck gave them their third just after half time (a ricochet off a defender then the goal post back to the kicker Brooks). The Tigers definitely had all the luck in the middle stages of the game, but Manly kind of asked for it. Uncharacteristic defensive errors, ill-discipline (including hair pulling) and some very clunky attack gave the Tigers opportunity after opportunity. It almost cost them, but they eventually got their act together enough to get the win in the end.
Trent Barrett was far from impressed at halftime and his mood wasn’t much better after the game. More importantly, neither were his players. There wasn’t any “yahooing” going on after this win. They knew it wasn’t good enough, and considering their next few weeks includes games against the likes of the Storm and Roosters, they need to do better. Manly are currently third on the NRL ladder but they are equal with three other teams on 26 points. The race to a Top 4 finish will be a tight one, and an ugly performance like this one won’t end up as a win that often. If they don’t step things up, they might be playing elimination footy in week one of the finals.
Close, But No Cigar For Ivan’s Tigers
The Wests Tigers are showing more character than they have been, but they are nowhere near the finished product. You have to tip your hat to them though in that they did well to come back from two early tries to take the lead themselves. If anything, they should have gone in with it. Especially as they were unlikely tries to get them ahead on the score board, and then to score first in the second stanza, the game was theirs to go on and win. However, losing Joel Edwards and Jacob Liddle to injury only left them with two on the bench for the entire second half. The strain on the interchange definitely increased, but we have seen teams get by in this situation. Especially when they are eight points ahead. The Tigers were unable to do so on this occasion.
You can see what Ivan Cleary’s team is trying to do on the field, but they’re just not up to it at this point. In this game, they were guilty of getting too far ahead of themselves by pushing the pass that simply wasn’t on because the adrenaline had gotten the better of them. The situation of being ahead in a game few expected them to win got the better of them. They started over reading their opposition in defence and mentally switched off at key times. In many ways, their lucky run throughout the game ran out. Fatigue would have been a factor in this one, but it happens too often even with a full bench to work with. There is a lot of work ahead of Ivan Cleary yet.
Barrett’s Chat With Archer Pays Off
After being squarely in Henry Perenara’s crosshairs last week, the Sea Eagles were much more disciplined this time around. After Perenara hit them for an astronomical 14 penalties last week, Gerard Sutton and Tim Roby only found four instances in the entire game against the Wests Tigers where a penalty was to be given against them. It is an incredible form reversal, wouldn’t you say?
Despite Barrett saying he and Archer found issues that they agreed on and some that they didn’t during the week, the men in the middle couldn’t find too much that they disliked from Manly this time around. It will be interesting to see if Perenara is given another Manly game as the season goes on. Especially in the finals. But it will also be interesting to see how many more coaches decide to pick up the phone and give Archer a call before an important game. You know, just to make sure everyone is on the same page. It certainly didn’t hurt Manly this week.
Sea Eagles: 28
Tries: Lane (7m), Wright (11m, 55m), Uate (59m), J. Trbojevic (71m)
Goals: Cherry-Evans 4/6
Tries: Edwards (24m), Marsters (29m), Brooks (46m)
Goals: Lolohea 2/3