Mitch Dransfield previews the Thursday night fixture with the Manly Sea Eagles taking on Wests Tigers at Lottoland.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Manly had the opportunity to move into the top four with a win against Warriors in New Zealand. The Kiwi side had lost six straight at home and, after a belting the previous week, were clinical and intense in the opening exchanges, leading 18-0 at halftime. A different attitude by Manly was had in the second stanza, however they were still struggling in attack until the dying stages where they nearly came back, but the Warriors held on to win 24-16.
Wests were on a roll since the retirement call of Robbie Farah weeks prior. The Bulldogs had different views with another upset win by the home side to somewhat derail the Tigers’ finals chances once again. The Tigers lead with an unconvincing 8-0 score at the half, with Cantebury finding their groove to post 18 points to scrape the win by 2 with a missed conversion by Wests kicker Paul Momirovski.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles’ Squad: 1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Brendan Elliot 4. Moses Suli 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Dylan Walker 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Jack Gosiewski 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Manase Fainu 15. Corey Waddell 16. Morgan Boyle 17. Taniela Paseka 18. Lachlan Croker 19. Tevita Funa 20. Sean Keppie 21. Lloyd Perrett.
Multiple injuries are forcing Michael Maguire to change his side, with Jacob Liddle moving into hooker for Robbie Farah who fractured his tibia while Moses Mbye’s injury sees Tommy Talau make his NRL debut in the centres. Josh Reynolds is listed among the reserves and could feature before kick-off.
Wests Tigers’ Squad: 1. Corey Thompson 2. Paul Momirovski 3. Tommy Talau 4. Esan Marsters 5. David Nofoaluma 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Thomas Mikaele 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Oliver Clark 11. Luke Garner 12. Michael Chee Kam 13. Ryan Matterson 14. Matt Eisenhuth 15. Elijah Taylor 16. Alex Twal 17. Chris Lawrence 18. Josh Reynolds 19. Robert Jennings 20. Chris McQueen 21. Sam McIntyre.
HEAD TO HEAD
The last meeting between Wests and Manly was way back in round one where a raining Leichhardt Oval made it a slippery first outing for both teams. The Tigers were able to lift in front of their supporters to see them blitz the Sea Eagles – who looked out of sync and in for a long season – winning 20-8 thanks to a Farah double. Fast forward to round 22, now on the Northern Beaches of Manly, for their second clash of 2019; the Sea Eagles are flying above expectations and are still a chance of a top four spot, while the Tigers are struggling to make the finals with a month left in the regular season.
The head-to-head goes the way of Wests, winning five of the last six encounters against Manly. They’re slowly becoming a bogey side for the maroon and whites. These fixtures tend to have the sides fighting out with points on their edges, with little to be desired through the middle forwards; high-scoring matches have been had in the past few years with one side getting out to lead to then being chased down at the end.
This is a massive game in the context of both sides’ finals outcomes, with each side having to deal with multiple injuries from their shock losses the round before. There is a key battle that will have a huge bearing on the fixture: the five-eighths of Benji Marshall and Dylan Walker.
The current Tigers captain, Benji will need to lead this side to an upset win with their finals hopes looking bleaker after the loss of two key players; with more leadership missing in the team it will be up to Benji to direct his teammates. Wests’ veteran playmaker has had a great season, being able to produce the clutch kicking game needed to close out matches or build pressure for his outside backs to score points from. Benji has created 10 forced drop outs and try assists with many being in the big games where the Tigers have struggled to get anything going, the five-eighth has gotten them on the right direction in attack.
Only starting his season in round 10, Dylan Walker has been a slow progression to where he was at his best. A centre turned five-eighth – for not the first time in his career – he has flourished with the role handed to him just a month or so ago, helping Daly Cherry-Evans with close to the line playmaking but also the needed vision of a half that can create something out of nothing for moments when the Sea Eagles are struggling.
Manly has been on a hot streak since Walker’s move, with his only loss in the four games coming last round; it’s definitely given his side more flair on the left edge with plenty of touches, to then get it out to his back rower or centre linking well. If the Sea Eagles are to win at home Walker will have to be involved heavily, taking the load off Cherry-Evans, who gets targeted for large portions of the game.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday, 15th August
Referee: Gerard Sutton
WHO WILL WIN?
It will be a tough tussle between two desperate sides wanting to get back in the winning circle so close to finals; back on the Northern Beaches, this should be a high-scoring match with both sides looking to work off their fairly strong defensive structures to claw a win. With the calibre of Tigers players missing, Manly should work hard in the beginning to set up enough of a platform for their spine to create points and they should run away with a healthy victory.
Prediction: Sea Eagles by 12