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globalrugbyleague - Sun, 15 Apr 2007 08:31:00 GMT
The Manly Sea Eagles and the Bulldogs came into this contest on a good run of form. But in this tight affair, it was Manly that was triumphant, edging past their opponents 16-14 at Telstra Stadium. Trailing for most of the second half, a piece of Michael Monaghan magic ten minutes from time turned the tide.

Both sides came into this contest on a good run of form. The Manly side were eager to continue their unbeaten start to the season, while the Bulldogs were looking to string win number three in a row.

But in a close encounter, it was the Sea Eagles that came out victors, taking out the honours 16-14 at Telstra Stadium.

Manly halfback Michael Monaghan said his side came away with a hard earned two competition points.

“It was a really tough game and it took 80 minutes to decide it,” he said.

“We really didn’t complete our sets and let the bulldogs back into it, it’s just our defence that won it.”

“We still haven’t played our best footy and we’re just grinding our games out.”

In contrast, the man they call the Ogre, Bulldogs forward Mark O’Meley was disappointed to lose by the smallest of margins.

“We came to play a grinding game, and we did that in the first 15 minutes,” he said.

“It’s disappointing to lose by two points, but they played the better game.”

The two sides started the match hoping to get the early ascendency.

However, the Bulldogs over exuberance cost them, turning the ball over on too many occasions especially on tackles one and two.

Ten minutes in, Manly made them pay. Gifted the ball on the Canterbury 20 metre line, the Sea Eagles outfit moved the ball to their left, with Monaghan’s final pass finding an unmarked Michael Robertson to put him over in the corner for a four-nil lead.

A couple of minutes later and the Manly side had a chance to further extend the lead, and should have, but bombed the try.

Finding space in the middle of the park, Monaghan shovelled a pass to Glenn Stewart who in turn found a flying Steve Bell.

The Sea Eagles centre beat the oncoming Luke Patten but was ankle tapped in the process, with the flick pass back to Stewart fumbled just centimetres from the try line.

The Bulldogs, struggling to gain any momentum, worked to gain the upper hand and through sheer persistence found their way into the opposition half.

However, whilst the passion was there, ball handling was of poor quality. The Belmore based side turned the ball over on three separate occasions in good attacking positions, nullifying any chance the Bulldogs had of making an impression on the scoreboard.

But to Canterbury’s relief, neither was Manly able to capitalise on the Bulldogs inaptitude with the ball.

And just before the half time break, Canterbury finally cracked the line.

Taking advantage of a Sea Eagles turnover, interchange player Dallas McIlwain darted out of dummy half, burrowed his head and crawled his way over the try line to amazingly put the Bulldogs 6-4 ahead at the half time break.

Coming into the second half, the Bulldogs looked a different side.

The men in blue and white began to bulk up in defence, putting in big shots and unsettling the Manly side. And after a few minutes, the hard work paid off.


Sonny Bill Williams’ shot on Anthony Watmough dislodged the ball, giving the Bulldogs possession within the Manly 40.

Seconds later and Williams was in the mix again, this time running into a gaping hole from Mark O’Meley pass, rounding the fullback and putting his side 12 – 4 up.

Full of confidence, the Bulldogs looked to add another. Pinning the Manly outfit inside their own 10, forwards O’Meley and Williams put in the big shots in hopes of regaining possession.

However, over exuberance cost the Canterbury outfit, with two consecutive penalties allowing the Sea Eagles an opportunity of their own. And this time Manly made no mistake, Chris Hicks reducing the deficit after the usually reliant Hazem El-Masri spilt Monaghan’s grubber.

From this point, the game seesawed. The outside backs for both teams found it difficult to get into the game, with the up and in defence keeping them quiet.

The contest was being played in the middle of the park, and the Bulldogs only edged slightly ahead in the 65th minute from the boot of Hazem El-Masri, up 14-10.

With players of the calibre of Jamie Lyon, Brett Stewart and Steve Bell nullified, it was going to take something special for Manly to get back into this one, and some Monaghan magic is exactly what they got.

Ten minutes from time, the clever Manly number 7 found some space near the Bulldogs’ left hand side, chipped through for himself, regathered, and passed the ball to a flying and free Steve Bell to score and put his side 16-14 in the lead.

The Bulldogs desperately tried to get back into the contest, but to no avail, with the Sea Eagles holding out to continue their winning start to the 2007 season.

After the game, Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler was happy to come away with the two points.

“It was a tough game, especially up against the bulldogs and you’ll take any win against the dogs,” he said

“I’m very proud of the way we hung in there and came back.”

“Canterbury throw a lot on both edges with Williams and Ryan, and we did well to hold them.”

He also had some words of praise for his temporary number 7, who guided the side well in Matt Orford’s absence.

“(Michael Monaghan) has been at the club for three or four years and he knows how to steer the team around,” the Manly Warringah coach said

“He came up with some really big plays tonight.

"Most halfbacks have that in their arsenal and I'm glad he pulled it out," Hasler said. "Of his arsenal that is."

The win sees the Sea Eagles continue to bite at the heels of the Melbourne Storm, who are also undefeated after their win over St George Illawarra, while the Bulldogs will need to do some soul searching after racking loss number three from five starts.

MANLY 16 (M Robertson, C Hicks, S Bell tries; J Lyon 2 goals) BULLDOGS 14 (D Mcllwain, S Williams tries; H El Masri 3 goals) at Telstra Stadium. Referee: P Simpkins. Crowd: 20,269. Game Grade: 7 balls out of ten.
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