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globalrugbyleague - Wed, 11 Apr 2007 19:44:00 GMT
The GRL Phantom is seeking to make it five wins on the trot with my tactical assessments this weekend.

And I believe I can keep up the winning trot by nominating the Bulldogs to end Manly's unbeaten run in the NRL season, so far.

The Bulldogs love the challenge - the bigger the occasion the better while Manly have slid underneath the radar this year.

Finalists for the past two years - the Sea Eagles are showing they are a semi final team again this year.

STRENGTHS:

Bulldogs:

They love the physical contests in games. Willie Mason, Sonny Bill Williams, Mark O'Meley, Andrew Ryan and Reni Maitua - the tougher the better.

Steve Folkes employs a simple game plan.

Play ``direct'' so as to crash through the line and slip off-loads to back-up players such as Luke Patten, Willie Tonga or back rowers in attack.

Defensively, you know how the Bulldogs play - numbers in tackles, the up and in defence. This cramps opposing teams and cuts down the ``thinking time'' of playmakers.

Hazem El Masri is worth 10 points a game with his goal kicking and solid play in attack and defence. He’s also a very good dummy - half runner.

Manly:

The Sea Eagles possess a powerful and steady defensive line. Coach Des Hasler has the team working well in the tackling department.

Manly gang tackle well and also eliminate space for opposition attacking teams with a ``holding style of defence'', where no players can break the line. This then tends to suffocate the opposition.

In attack, powerful forwards such as Glenn Stewart have been outstanding so far this year.

Big props eat up the yardage and aim for quick play the balls and second phase play from the backs.

Michael Monaghan is in career best form and has improved his passing game. Tall wingers in Chris Hicks and Michael Robertson can leap high when bombs are aimed them.

They also have pace and skill in Matt Orford, Steve Matai and Brett Stewart who are quick and dangerous. So too with Jamie Lyon and Steve Bell, both powerful centres who break the line.

Orford, Matai and Steve Menzies have been injured in recent weeks and the replacements have done very well. Manly's big strength this year is their depth, making them the envy of the league.

WEAKNESSES:

Bulldogs:

Sometimes the Bulldogs team gets carried away with the ``rough stuff;; and players can concede penalties while defenders can rush out of the line, leaving defensive holes.

Manly:

They can be predictable in attack at times which is confusing for a team with size and power in the pack and speed in the backs.

Mongahan can try too hard sometimes and rush passes.

Rushing defences do worry Manly especially when they try and spin the ball wide.

The Bulldogs love to ``rattle'' teams with the ``angle in defence'' and will aim their big forwards at Mongahan forcing him to rush passes and kicks.

VERDICT:

The Bulldogs by six.

The Belmore defence will be torrid and the game won't be won until the final 10 minutes of play when the Bulldogs wear the visitors down physically and most of all mentally.
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