What they said… Round 7 – Manly v Northern Suburbs

MANLY 23 (James Hilterbrand, Tom Chesters tries; Matt Lucas 2 cons, 3 pens) defeated NORTHERN SUBURBS 18 (Connor Vest, Angus Sinclair tries; Angus Sinclair con, 2 pens) HT 20-18


With the only two unbeaten sides left in the 2017 Shute Shield clashing at Manly Oval last Saturday afternoon, something had to give. And after a titanic tussle that saw defences on top for the most part, it was the Shoremen’s 20 game winning streak that came to an end – a 3-0 second half shut-out from the Marlins cementing the victory after they had led 20-18 at the break. Behind the Ruck got the post-match reaction from both camps…


Brian Melrose (Manly head coach):

“At 14-0 up I thought Norths might blink, but that would be about as much as would happen, and they quickly got the momentum back in the game and they’re brilliant at doing that. From that point on our boys were clearly trying to win the game, but that pressure made us a little bit nervy and some of the flow that we like to get in our game wasn’t there, and that was credit to Norths, they stopped our flow completely.

“They destroyed us at the breakdown and our lineout was probably average all day so we weren’t able to get any flow in the second half, but we were able to work our way through it and come up with a couple of big plays at the end to hold on. It was a funny game because we had field position but they had possession, and we were able to defend them in their own half apart from the closing 10 minutes, when they applied plenty of pressure to our line. But we were able to resist it, come up with one of those crucial turnovers and get away with it. That’s got to give us some confidence but the reality is that it was an imperfect performance in what was a brutal game.

“Norths could say they had a couple of their better players not playing but arguably, we had a couple not playing too, and I think it’s about being able to play and get through the big moments no matter who you have out there. One of our things this year was to be a fraction fitter, to be mentally stronger and to maybe take the options when needed to get over the top of the other teams. Maybe, over the years, Manly haven’t been able to do that, and just because we did today doesn’t necessarily mean that we can stand up under the next level of pressure.

“It’s round seven, so it’s not going to finish anyone’s season, but it’s nice to win the match and it’s nice to see the boys battle through some good pressure against a good side. We’ve played five of last year’s top six now but in fairness, we’ve had five of those seven games at home too, so we’ll have a tough back end of the season. I can’t complain about the effort of the boys but we’ve got a long way to go in many areas of the game. We’ve just got to try and keep humble and keep working on the things that we’re not so good at.”

Will Eggleston (Norths assistant coach):

“There’s been a lot of talk on and off the field about the 20 game run and the old ‘one more victory closer to defeat’ sort of stuff, but in terms of the group we’ve got here, a lot of people will tell you we’re all about the process, we’re not necessarily about the result. So today, we’re not necessarily disappointed that we’ve lost the game, it’s more that we didn’t really throw any attacking shapes at them, and that some of our defensive shapes were a little bit weak. There was no shoulder punch in our tackle and we gave them a 14pt headstart, which you can’t do against any side, regardless if they’re top of the league or bottom of the league. You also can’t play the game for 20 minutes with a player down so, it’s not that we feel they didn’t beat us, they deservedly did, but we almost feel like we beat ourselves today.

“We didn’t really throw anything at them and we didn’t help ourselves in a lot of areas, particularly our catch and pass and our attacking shapes in those wide areas, where we passed the ball too early and let them drift off us and made life easy for them. And we talk about making sure we play in the right areas of the field but for the first 20 minutes in the second half, we just didn’t do that. Therefore, they put pressure on us when we were attacking, forced the turnover or an error, and they got the ball back in a good position. We also had some set-piece around our 25 or 30 where we either kicked the ball straight to them and gave them a chance to run it back, or we didn’t find the grass for it to bounce out, so we put ourselves under a lot of pressure.

“Our mantra is ‘next level’, as in striving to perform to the standards required at the next level, and those teams and individuals that do that, they want that success every single time they go out on the field. When that final whistle went, that’s a feeling that a lot of those guys haven’t felt in a year, so you make sure they remember that, and that they don’t want to feel it again, and that’s their drive for the following week, and the week after that, and the week after that. That’s how you kick on.”

Matt Lucas (Manly scrumhalf):

“It was a little bit disappointing that we couldn’t keep the pressure on them until half-time after such a good start but they stick to their structures and we – I won’t say let the foot off – but we made it hard for ourselves by giving away penalties and giving away field position. You do that to any good side and they’ll make you pay. We’re two sides that probably base a lot of their footy on defence and that’s what happened, we both smashed each other. It was a pretty scrappy game and there wasn’t a lot of footy, particularly in that second half where I think it was only 3-0. But I think if you ask anyone who was down here today they would have had an awesome afternoon. It was a great atmosphere, there were plenty of people and two good sides that gave their absolute all.

“When we played Norths here last year, they were four from eight and they haven’t lost a game since, so today was a chance for us to butt heads against a really well-oiled machine, and a really well-respected side. You know exactly what you’re going to get every time you play them now and they gave it to us again today, but we were good enough to come out on top. We get a lot of confidence out of it but in the greater scheme of things, the result doesn’t affect them a great deal and it doesn’t affect us a great deal either.

“We’re trying to build towards another title challenge but we’re not result driven, we want to become a side that – when Manly supporters rock up – they know what they’re going to get, whether you’ve got 10 people out or you’re at full-strength. At the moment we’re playing some good footy, but again, it’s not a full performance yet.

“We’ve done this stuff before and been in these positions before, and we’ve won plenty of Minor Premierships, but the big one has alluded us for a long time. That’s why we’re not looking for wins per se, we’re looking to build each week and put a really determined performance out there every week. If we do that, hopefully the results will go our way.”


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