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globalrugbyleague - Fri, 11 May 2007 14:10:00 GMT

The GRL Phantom believes tonight's clash between Manly and Parramatta at Brookvale Oval is one worth recording on tape to watch in years to come.

The game brings together a contrasting style of approaches from Manly's Des Hasler and Parramatta's Michael Hagan.

Manly lead the competition on percentages, equal on 14 points with Melbourne and until last week when the Sea Eagles unleashed their attacking artillery, they had been playing a methodical, patient, mistake-free game.

Cast your eye over the backline attack and there is speed to burn in the form of Chris Hicks, Michael Robertson, Stephen Bell and Brett Stewart.

A suffocating, ``holding'' type of defensive line used by Manly this year has spoiled many team's attacking options.

This Manly side reminds me of the teams of 1995-97 when the Sea Eagles were under coach and legend Bob Fulton.

They made three grand finals - a title win over St George in 1996, and had the best defence in the league.

In that era Manly had size and speed in the backs, strong tacklers and an athletic back row who did the hard work and were spiced with off-loading skill in the shape of Daniel Garner and Nik Kosef (correct spelling).

And let’s not forget the great edge of the field running by Steve Menzies off Cliff Lyons.

The 2007 version is similar.

Des Hasler played under Bob Fulton at Manly and has learnt well from him.

MANLY

Strengths:

They possess big, strong forwards who hit the advantage line and gain ground well.

Defensively, Manly defend well from sideline to sideline.

The defensive system is designed for all players to take their opposite man. Decoy runners are watched yet the defence is not ``fooled'' into tackling the decoy, but the man with the ball.

Manly's supreme fitness is very beneficial in that part of their game..

There are few holes in the line and they also tackle the player with the ``ball in his arm'' so as to prevents off-loads.

Manly's backs are quick courtesy of Michael Robertson, Chris Hicks, Stephen Bell, Jamie Lyon, Brett Stewart and Matt Orford.

Anthony Watmough in the back row is a first class athlete and footballer, who roams down the left hand side of the field.

Weaknesses:

Manly showed they do panic at times when they get behind in a game by a fair margin like the Cowboys match at Townsville.

Matt Orford, who loves to lead the attack can overplay his hand at times and try and handle the ball too many times in a set of six.

Another weakness is their interchange.

Jason King and George Rose share the prop role, but can exposed laterally to dummy-half running.

The Eels' PJ Marsh will be aiming at tiring defenders around the rucks as it gets close to halftime.

PARRAMATTA

Strengths:

Michael Hagan has a team more than capable on their day of beating fancied opposition.

Krisnan Inu is a real talent and this centre is more then ready to go.

I like the look of the Hindmarsh brothers in the second row Ian and Nathan while captain Nathan Cayless gets good go forward and this year seems to be in career best form.

Tim Smith and Brett Finch are league's ``odd couple'' paired in the halves.

When the Eels function well they look good together, when the Eels have lost this year, it's because neither player was dominant.

Weaknesses:

Their forwards sometimes look pedestrian in attack and don't dent the defensive line, forcing sideways movement when passing.

Smith and Finch can be guilty of this.

Verdict:

Manly should get home in a tight and high scoring affair. Matches between these rivals are often close and controversial. - Read More, Here