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The fall of the Ox? - Australian Rugby league News
globalrugbyleague - Sat, 12 May 2007 10:23:00 GMT

Manly halfback Matt Orford may be singing the Blues next week after appearing to play himself out of Origin contention in last night's 22-12 win over the Eels.

Orford – playing in his 4th game since returning from a knee injury - told the media afterward that he felt he’d had ‘an alright kicking game.’

However lack of distance with his line kicks compared to the foot work of others appeared to overshadow his dogged tackling and the one kicking try-assist he authored in the second half.

To his credit, it was a grubber kick which set up a try for the competition leaders in second-half. But Orford’s problem may be that he did not do enough.

While Manly’s regular little general had his representative aspirations for game 1 dashed by many in the media, it was Michael Monaghan who continued to shine.

Named at five-eighth mid-week, his late switch to the hooking role didn’t hamper his performance.

Monaghan was credited by former first-grade coach and ABC commentator Warren Ryan for getting Manly out of ‘that well known creek’ after the Eagles were down 6-2 at half-time.

His first act of magic appeared shortly after the break when he helped set up an Anthony Watmough 45-metre run before later regaining the ball and grubbering to send Jamie Lyon over into the Eels in-goal.

According to the statistics, the former full-time halfback had already set up 11 tries in 7 rounds this year while filling in for the ‘Ox.’

The on-air compliments for ‘Mick’ were constant and in good supply.

Former Blues coach Phil Gould proclaimed both on Channel 9 and ABC Radio: “I don’t know if he’s the best but we can win with him.”

Meanwhile former South Sydney coach Shaun McRae found Manly’s decision to release Monaghan early and let him negotiate with other NRL clubs as ‘extraordinary.’

Welcome to the club, Shaun.

“The thing I really want to do is play fulltime halfback and there’s no secret that’s why I’m looking to move on,” Monaghan told the Daily Telegraph.

Yet despite being described as ‘competitive’ and full of ‘toughness’ Gould still believes selectors won’t consider him at all.

Cloning the Eels first half performance, Manly dominated most of the possession in the second forty, scoring four tries in 23 minutes to win the game hands-down.

The tv man of the match award went to Brett Stewart who has now scored 35 tries in 34 games at Brookvale Oval.

Stewart grabbed his first touchdown in the 54th minute after the video referee gave him the green light on a benefit of the doubt ruling.

But it was the Manly fullback’s second try in the north-eastern corner that scored him top marks amongst those calling the game.

Gould credited Stewart with using ‘every inch of the field’ after he grounded the ball only a centimetre from the corner post.

So close in fact that the ruling on it could easily have gone the other way.

As for the Jamie Lyon walkout of 2004 motivating the blue and gold, the only thing it appeared to conjure up was a bit of extra traffic crossing the Harbour Bridge.

The Eels never looked like they had a lot of points in them all evening and that is an issue coach Michael Hagan will need to address.

Manly also had a huge night in the lower grades, defeating the Eels 22-16 in Premier League and 22-12 in Jersey Flegg.

The only negative coming out of the game for Manly was the decision by referee Paul Simpkins to place Steve Matai on report for a high tackle on Eels centre Ben Smith.

Smith was left bloodied as a result.

Manly Sea Eagles 22 (B Stewart 2, J Lyon, C Hicks tries; J Lyon 3/6 goals) d Parramatta 12 (T Smith, Z Taia tries; L Burt 2 goals) at Brookvale Oval. Referee: Paul Simpkins. Crowd: 19,944 Penalties: Manly 7-6 Scrums: Eels 9-7 Line Breaks: Manly 4-2 Possession: Eels 51% Manly 49% - Read More, Here