Marlins see off Rebels in top of the table clash

Photo: SPA Images

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Manly have put their hand up as potential winners of this year’s Shute Shield, downing ladder leaders Southern Districts 27-17 at Manly Oval in a game that also saw the return of giant winger Nemani Nadolo.

Their cause was certainly helped by the 7th minute red card shown to Radike Samo for a nasty looking spear tackle on centre Brian Sefanaia, with the Marlins taking a two tries-to-one advantage into the break. Two further five-pointers after half-time from Tevita Metuisela and Chris Cottee sealed the win. But great credit must be given to the Rebels’ surge in the last 20 minutes, when Rob Horne snatched one back and they came mighty close to another in the dying moments. The win draws Manly to within two points of Souths at the top of the ladder.

With the platform set for a classic 1st versus 2nd encounter, it didn’t take long for the pre-match hype to fizzle out somewhat with the early dismissal of Samo. From that point on, and no matter what magic Manly may have produced, you were only able to view the scoreline through the advantage of an extra man, and ponder the outcome of the two best sides in the competition on a level playing field.

That’s not to say that the red card was undeserved. Samo and the Rebels can have no complaints with the punishment meted out after a reckless and dangerous tackle, from which Sefanaia can only take comfort from its execution on the softer part of the Village Green pitch. Adam D’Arcy stepped up to do what Adam D’Arcy does better than most, and the home side led 3-0.

The visitor’s hit back with a penalty from Nathan Sievert before taking the lead in the 20th minute, somewhat against the run of play. Manly were cutting loose with ball in hand across halfway when a massive hit on an unsuspecting backrower popped a loose ball up in the air, and Sisa Waqa pounced to streak through to the posts and give Sievert a second successful kick.

The Marlins stuck to their task, and with a pack as powerful and disciplined inside the opposition red zone as they have, there’s not many sides in the competition who can handle them when they get a sniff of the line.

The unsung hero of the front row this year has been Elvis Taione, whose all round game has gone up a significant notch to last season. And it was he who finally plundered the reply after a succession of pick and drives had the Souths defence scrambling.

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Elvis Taione put in another impressive shift for the Marlins including a try – Photo: SPA Images

D’Arcy couldn’t add the extras, but three minutes later he showed just how valuable he is to this team and why he’s back on top of the Shute Shield points-scoring ladder. Manly attacked the 22 and flyhalf Mark Swanepoel – a recent addition to the side following the injury to Ben Seymour – showed his vision to throw a cut-out pass to Lui Siale. He found fellow winger Luke Johnson, and it was his crucial pass that put D’Arcy through a gap to show some impressive pace and burn off Ben Schreiber to the corner.

He followed that up with a sublime kick from the sideline to take Manly’s lead out to 15-10 at half-time, although the try assist from Johnson was to be his last act, an injury giving an earlier than expected return to 1st Grade for Nemani Nadolo. The 6ft 5in Fijian try-sensation had seemingly played his last game for the club a few weeks ago as he put pen to paper with French side Bourgoin. But their current financial crisis has put the move on hold, perhaps permanently, and that can only be good news for both Manly supporters and club rugby followers in general.

The second half saw the Marlins up the intensity as they sought to put their opponents out of reach. An early breakthrough from Tevita Metuisela seemed to signal the opening of the floodgates, but after hammering the Rebels line for the next 15 minutes, they still only had the burly number eight’s try to show for their efforts. But what a try.

A move on the left wing found a seagulling Metuisela, who palmed off one, shrugged aside another, then stepped inside two more to find the line. It was a terrific individual effort, but you’d have to question the missed tackles from Souths in the processs. D’Arcy produced a rare miss but the home side now had a 10pt buffer.

They should have added to that as they camped inside the Rebels 22, and greater discipline and patience with ball in hand – and anything less than stoic defence from Souths – would have seen a blow-out score. They went close when scrumhalf Chris Cottee was held up on the line after a Nadolo burst and pop-up pass in contact put him through, and again when a nice spin and feed from Swanepoel gave Siale a run to the line, but he couldn’t hold onto the pill.

The flurry of attack from the Marlins gradually dwindled, and the game settled into a stop-start period of injury breaks. But they came alive again on the hour and finally grabbed the crucial bonus point try, the alert Cottee sniping off a ruck from 10 metres to dart through and dot down. The Rebels complained of a knock-on, but referee Nathan Pearce gave the all clear and D’Arcy made it 27-10.

Swanepoel, Mark tackling 100710D-9136.JPG

Souths hooker John Ulugia slides under the attentions of Manly flyhalf Mark Swanepoel – Photo: SPA Images

It looked like that would be that when, from nowhere, a simple lineout play got the visitor’s back in the game. From a throw just over halfway, the ball was secured and fed back to the waiting Sievert. He fed former Marlin Josh Gamgee, who put a rampaging Rob Horne straight through a hole to score by the posts and give Sievert an easy conversion.

Souths suddenly sniffed a comeback, and they had a chance to get within a converted try and a losing bonus point at worst, when Pearce awarded them a penalty. But with coach Darren Bray screaming for them to take the three points, Gamgee kicked to touch, the lineout was lost, and with it, the opportunity.

It was still a brave and impressive effort from the undermanned Rebels as they continued to look the more likely side to add to the scoreline right up until the final whistle. They did get a free shot at the posts in the 76th minute, but Sievert slipped on the muddy surface to pull his effort wide, and leave the leaders with the long trip back to Sylvania empty-handed.

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MANLY 27 (Adam D’Arcy, Elvis Taione, Tevita Metuisela, Chris Cottee tries; Adam D’Arcy 2 cons, pen) defeated SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 17 (Rob Horne, Sisa Waqa tries; Nathan Sievert 2 cons, pen) at Manly Oval. HT 15-10

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FINAL THOUGHTS:

Manly head coach Phil Blake:

“No matter what side you are, you lose a quality player like Radike Samo and you’re going to miss him. You’d like to think you’d beat fourteen men but to their credit, they didn’t go away. They hung in there and they showed everyone why they’re on top of the competition, and may well continue to stay at the top because they’ve got a lot of quality players and they showed a lot of character.

“In the first 15-20 minutes of the second half, I thought we had ample opportunity to put them away once and for all and get them off the scent, but we weren’t good enough. Our patience and composure in their red zone was probably the worse we’ve had all year, and I thought when we didn’t put them away then that if they got back into the game by points that this could be a Uni game or a Wests game again, where they come back and may even get the win. With five minutes to go, if he gets that penalty goal they’re within a try, and they’ve got blokes who’ve got the ability to score tries from anywhere. So that game was far from over and it went down to the wire, more so because of our lack of ball control and particularly our patience.

“We knew this week, as in any competition around the world when it’s one versus two, it’s football. There’s a lot of intensity, people want to get bragging rights, and people want to have any sort of mental or psychological edge before the end of the season or come the semis. So you’re always looking to gain any sort of edge that you can that holds you in good stead moving forward and in particular, if you play them again. So that was played at semi-final intensity, and semi-final football is not won around the big play, it’s all about the little plays. That’s why us and Souths and the other sides that will make the semis, you’ve just got to keep on refining your game.”

Southern Districts head coach Darren Bray:

“I thought there was probably four or five lots of ten-second defensive lapses, and the one straight after half-time I was really annoyed about. But after that the boys dug in, and I thought we were the better team in the last thirty minutes and we just couldn’t execute. I was pretty proud of them with the 15 minutes Manly spent on our line straight after that try. A lot of teams would have capitulated, there’s no doubt about that and Manly could have ripped away to 50pts. So there’s a positive in that and I’m happy with that, but we’ve got to turn it around and we’ve got a lot of work to do.

“It’s the old cliché, you learn more from a loss than a win. But we know we don’t have a lot of big players coming back and our injury toll’s getting higher and higher, and we’ve got to call on our depth now. We’ve just got to manage through that and see how the boys aim up and away we go. On paper we’re still a pretty good team, and no matter what people will say we did front up today and I thought we could have given them a show in the last 15. We just couldn’t get across the line but you know, good luck to Manly.

“We’re not in panic mode yet. We’ve only had two losses and there’s still a few teams that have got to play each other and get there, so we’ll just play along and see what we can do. But it is a learning curve for a lot of those blokes and you’ve got to aim up. The season’s still got a long way to go, there’s still 45pts left to play for and that’s a lot of points for a team in the middle of the table at the moment.”

Manly winger Nemani Nadolo:

“The last game I played was [for Fiji] against Tonga three weeks ago, so it’s good to get a game and build some fitness while this thing’s going on. I played pretty much all of 3rd Grade, came off in the 58th minute and I got two meat pies. So it was just good to get back to club footy, and especially with Manly’s 1st Grade coming second on the table. It’s a good way to start back off.

“Mate, in the second half I was feeling it! That tempo and that level of game wasn’t quite like 3rd Grade but it’s just good to get back and play. I’ve been with Fiji and done a lot of training and it’s been pretty hard training, so it’s been good to come back with a few kilos shredded and good to see how I can go again in club rugby.”

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Manly: 1. Eddie Aholelei; 2. Elvis Taione; 3. Tim Fairbrother; 4. Dylan Sigg; 5. Greg Peterson; 6. Will Brame (c); 7. Chris Westenenk; 8. Tevita Metuisela; 9. Chris Cottee; 10. Mark Swanepoel; 11. Lui Siale; 12. Tyrone Smith; 13. Brian Sefanaia; 14. Luke Johnson; 15. Adam D’Arcy

Southern Districts: 1. Tetera Faulkner; 2. John Ulugia; 3. Nic Henderson; 4. Rome Nifo; 5. Kane Douglas; 6. Radike Samo; 7. Sean Doyle; 8. Ita Vaea; 9. Nathan Sievert; 10. Josh Gamgee (c); 11. Ben Schreiber; 12. Bernie Orbell; 13. Brackin Karauria-Henry; 14. Sisa Waqa; 15. Nicky Price

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Original version published by clubrugby.com.au on July 26th, 2010

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