Marlins bounce back to see off rusty Emus

Photo: SPA Images

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Manly have returned to winning ways after last week’s controversial home defeat at the hands of Sydney Uni, with a solid, if unspectacular, 27-7 victory over Penrith on Saturday.

Nepean Rugby Park has proven to be a particularly hazardous venue for visiting sides this year, but this vastly improved Emus outfit hadn’t played for three weeks and appeared a tad rusty this time around. The Marlins took advantage, jumping out to a 17-0 half-time lead with tries from Cadeyrn Neville, Richard Hooper and Lui Siale. Penrith rallied after the break and actually led the half 7-5 before Ben Seymour scooted over in the corner after the bell, sending the men from the Village Green back up the M4 with a win, a bonus point, and having successfully avoided a potential banana skin.

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The foot of the mountains offered up a bright afternoon with a hint of winter chill as Penrith took to the field for the first time in 21 days since a bravura performance in a 46-31 defeat by Eastwood. The Emus were keen to claim another high profile scalp having already beaten Warringah and West Harbour on home soil, and they started the game accordingly, refusing to be intimidated by their opponent’s reputation.

Their task was helped somewhat by the early departure of Manly’s gun centre Tyrone Smith, who left the field with a hamstring injury in the first five minutes to be replaced by Richard Hooper. With both sides seeking dominance at the breakdown on a rapidly deteriorating pitch, the first 10 minutes were a flurry of heavy hits and tough, uncompromising rugby.

Penrith would have been hoping to keep the visitor’s scoreless for as long as possible to plant a few seeds of doubt. So the opening try that went the way of the Marlins in the 12th minute was not part of the script.

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Chris Cottee provided his usual snappy service for the Marlins – Photo: SPA Images

Having been awarded a penalty 40 metres out for not rolling away, Adam D’Arcy’s touch-finder gave them a five-metre line-out from which to attack. Imitating the expected play of the touring English side that would face the Wallabies later that evening at Homebush, the visitors set up a driving maul, and with precise and controlled aggression, rumbled their way to the line with lock Cadeyrn Neville dotting down the opener.

In a pretext of what would follow, the normally prolific D’Arcy couldn’t add the extras. But Manly started to crank up the gears as a side that had gone down to the wire last week against a Super Rugby-laden Sydney Uni outfit, took control of the game away from their ring rusty counterparts. Penrith held out manfully until the half hour when a quick tap from a contentious penalty – from an Emus perspective – and one pass infield gave replacement Hooper a 50 metre run to the line, but again D’Arcy couldn’t exacerbate the punishment.

When the hosts then lost experienced winger Filipo Toala to the sin bin a few minutes later for repeat infringements, you feared for them, and it wasn’t long before try number three materialised. From a scrum on the Emus 22, a dominant shove by Western Force prop Tim Fairbrother gave Manly some momentum, flyhalf Ben Seymour picked up and found Chris ‘Chile’ Westenenk in support, and the Chilean international  took on the line before offloading for Lui Siale to finish the job and give D’Arcy his first points of the day in the process.

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Tim Fairbrother adds plenty of starch to the Manly front row – Photo: SPA Images

The Emus finally built a few promising phases in the closing minutes of the half but couldn’t profit, and after the Marlins had turned it over, the home side were penalised yet again for not rolling away. Captain Luke Cross was not a happy man and remonstrated with referee Andrew Lees, clearly feeling that his team were on the wrong end of an uneven penalty count. But it didn’t matter as D’Arcy’s ‘yips’ continued, pulling his penalty shot wide with the taunts of the locals on the hill ringing in his ears, sending both teams to the sheds with a 17pt margin.

The Emus started the second stanza brightly, with multiple breaks gaining them good field position. Some slick passing exchanges from their backline were asking serious questions of the Manly defence, but they couldn’t quite find that killer ball to put anyone away into space, and failure to get enough support to the ball carrier often resulted in turnovers.

The returned Toala almost got them home but spilt the pill in contact five metres out, and centre Tawhiri Walsh was deemed to have played the ball on the floor, giving Manly the chance to clear. And despite their improved efforts, it was their opponents who crossed next to quell any thoughts of a comeback, when a tap and go on the Emu line saw Marlins skipper Wil Brame step inside and crash over for the bonus point.

The score sparked the Emus into an increased flurry of attacking intent, and they finally – and deservedly so – broke their duck. A great bust over halfway by the powerful Stan Tuionoku fed prop Toa Asa, who carried three tacklers with him to within 10 metres. Flanker Junior To’o took up the challenge, carried and found Dave Coventry off his shoulder, and the bustling prop dotted down.

The Marlins were perhaps guilty of switching off, and Brame rallied his troops under the posts as winger Walsh added the extras over their heads. But the home side had the bit between their teeth and with ten minutes to go and play becoming broken, they almost bagged another. The lively Asa found space to exploit down the right flank after a terrific exchange of passes set him free to the corner. But despite the prop’s best efforts, he was the wrong guy to have to try and outpace two wingers from 30 metres, and he was duly mown down by his chasers.

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Toa Asa was heavily involved in tight and around the park for the home side – Photo: SPA Images

A few minutes later, Tuionuku saw space in behind and kicked ahead, but appeared to be obstructed by the forearm of a recovering Dylan Sigg. Lui Siale retrieved the loose ball, but after he’d turned to set off in the opposite direction, a clearly disgruntled Tuionuku took out his frustration by ‘tackling without arms’ and received a yellow card for his troubles. Penrith coach Matt Briggs was adamant afterwards that it was a retaliatory offence and deemed it a bad call by the officials.

The bell rang for the end of the game shortly after to confirm a Manly victory, but with the Emus leading the half 7-5, their laudable efforts to go out on a further positive note by refusing to kick the ball dead, came back to bite them. They were turned over near the halfway line and the alert Ben Seymour profited, ran an angle across the backline, palmed off  winger Henry Lilomaiava, and found the corner to well and truly turn the screw at 27-7.

It was a cruel finish for Penrith that wouldn’t have pleased coach Briggs. But at least D’Arcy’s missed conversion – his fifth from six attempts – didn’t inflict any further damage. Not only were the hill giving it to him as he lined up the ball, a kookaburra’s sudden call spooked him on his run up as well just to ensure the negative outcome. Sometimes it just isn’t your day.

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MANLY 27 (Cadeyrn Neville, Wil Brame, Ben Seymour, Lui Siale, Richard Hooper tries; Adam D’Arcy con) defeated PENRITH 7 (Dave Coventry try; Tawhiri Walsh con) at Nepean Rugby Park HT 17-0

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FINAL THOUGHTS:

Manly head coach Phil Blake:

I thought it was a good contest. We earmarked this after the last month that we’ve had that it was going to be a tough game. They hadn’t played for three weeks and they were going to be up for it, and I can understand now why they’ve beaten good sides out here this year. So I’m very happy for the win, very happy to get the bonus point, and very happy to get out of here.

“This could have gone pear-shaped quite easily for us. We played really well I thought in the first half and we had the better ball control. In the second half I think we slipped away from what we wanted to achieve, and I think that was a combination of them lifting their intensity a bit and us probably dropping ours, and they played really well. As I said, they will beat more sides out here this year because they’re starting to take shape to be a pretty good football side.”

Penrith head coach Matt Briggs:

“It’s been three weeks since we played Eastwood, and we always knew it was going to be hard to get some continuity back. We were hoping to have a full contingency of players but unfortunately we’ve had a couple of players lose relatives in the last week or so, so they’re away back over in the Islands attending funerals and whatnot. Obviously, Sione Tonga in particular is a massive loss and it would have been nice to have him there today. But no excuses, Manly came here with a set plan and they executed quite well. 

“It was always going to be a physical match, and I think that’s probably the one thing I take away from today is that there’s not too many sides that will actually blow us off the park or outmuscle us. That was a very encouraging sign. But the turnover ball was critical.  I don’t like to say too many disparaging things about referees, they are an important part of our game, but I just felt today that we didn’t get the rub of the green. I’ll look at the tape, and all we can do is worry about improving our discipline and our own execution, and I hope we come out against Sydney University next week – which will be a massive clash for us – and perform well.

“I had a few of the Manly staff congratulate us on our performance and come up and shake my hand, which was nice and what the game is all about. But I think that that last try probably flattered them, and a 22-7 or 22-14 scoreline would have probably been more appropriate. However, you’ve got to play out the 80 minutes and that’s what we’re still trying to do. I don’t think that going into the next game we’ve got anything to be worried about or afraid of, we’ve just got to play our style of rugby, which is good, ball in hand, attacking, aggressive rugby and be a little bit more disciplined, and I think we could be in for a very interesting and possibly surprise result.”

Manly captain Wil Brame:

“With Manly, you always come out here expecting the win. But at the same time you don’t want to get that thought in your head during the week, and I think that was one thing we were worried about. There’s teams that come out to play Penrith and they just aren’t up for it, I think Warringah came out here the other week and they were worried about everything else apart from playing the game. We didn’t want to fall into the same trap so we came out here wanting to play.

“They took a lot of our ball, which we shouldn’t be giving away, so that’ll definitely be something we address at training, and I can see ‘Blakey’ doing a lot of rough stuff with us in the week. Credit to them, they were awesome at the ruck, especially in the first half when they just kept taking it off us.

“For the first 20 minutes we expected that physical contest, but we probably made it a bit harder on ourselves. I think the forwards got a bit lost in the second half, we weren’t marking up around the rucks and they started to come through, and by the time the second defender came in to stop the play they were getting offloads, so they were killing us from close in the ruck, which probably led to the try they scored. At the end of the day we defended well, we scrambled a lot, and we stopped points, and with all of the play they had in the second half they should have scored more. We did the job in the first half but we’ve definitely got things to work on during the week.”

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Penrith: 1. Dave Coventry; 2. Elvis Levi; 3. Toa Asa; 4. Johnny Smith; 5. Chris Aho; 6. Junior To’o; 7. Winney Paulo; 8. Vili Napa’a; 9. Aaron Mattin; 10. Stan Tuionuku; 11. Henry Lilomaiava; 12. Tawhiri Walsh; 13. Luke Cross (c), 14. Filipo Toala; 15. Leon Bott

Manly: 1. Eddie Aholelei; 2. Elvis Taione; 3. Tim Fairbrother; 4. Dylan Sigg; 5. Cadeyrn Neville; 6. Tevita Metuisela; 7. Chris Westenenk; 8. Wil Brame (c); 9. Chris Cottee; 10. Ben Seymour; 11. Lui Siale; 12. Tyrone Smith; 13. John Payne; 14. Luke Johnson; 15. Adam D’Arcy

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Original version published by clubrugby.com.au on June 21st, 2010

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