Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs vs Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
ANZ Stadium, 4/7/14 7:45pm
Do not be fooled, time does not in fact heal old wounds. Friday night the Sea Eagles will venture into hostile territory when they face the Bulldogs at ANZ stadium. This modern day rivalry is still bubbling along nearly 3 years after Des Hasler left the Eagles nest within a week of taking manly to the top of the mountain in 2011 only to take up residence in the kennel. Geoff Toovey may have eased into the coaching roll seamlessly, taking the club deep into the finals series in his 2 seasons in charge, but this has done nothing to quench the loathing of the fans towards their former head whistle blower or the club that poached him. Rest assured Dogs fans, like all other 15 clubs, despise the Sea Eagles and will be looking for the win.
At first glance you could be excused for not thinking much of this game with all the star power missing. Canterbury will be without NSW origin stars Josh Morris, Josh Reynolds and Blues match winner Trent Hodkinson along with NZ Internationals Chase Stanley and Sam Perret also unavailable due to injury.
On the other side of the fence, Manly have not been hit as hard with players missing, they will however be without star halfback Daly Cherry-Evans due to origin duty, Anthony Watmough suspended and work horse back rower Glenn Stewart still a number of weeks away from returning.
With several stars missing it is easy to dismiss this game, but as I said earlier that is at first glance. If you care to read between the lines you will notice this game is still bursting with stars, the Bulldogs will unleash captain Michael Ennis, Krisnan Inu, future international Josh Jackson along with representative forwards James Graham, Greg Eastwood, Sam Kasiano and former premiership winning Sea Eagle Tony Williams, who will have a point to prove against his old mates after being left out of Origins II & III. Manly will match the Dogs firepower with a slick backline that is second to none and an overachieving forward pack that plays above its experience every week. This game will be more entertaining than a first glace will suggest, expect brutal charges, big hits, amazing off loads and scintillating tries.
Played: 135 (Manly 70 bulldogs 58 drawn 7)
At ANZ Stadium – Played: 9 (Manly 6 Canterbury 3)
Friday 6th of June 2014
Manly-Warringah 32 beat Canterbury-Bankstown 10
Last time these two sides clashed was only four rounds ago at a muddy Brookvale Oval. The Dogs were sitting on top spot with Manly in the top four as well, now the tide has turned with Manly sitting pretty as sole completion leaders and Canterbury still in the mix at 3rd. A somewhat remarkable individual streak came to an end that night in June. Before DCE kicked his side into gear, Brett Stewart scoring a double, Kieran Foran chasing and hitting everything he saw and Brenton Lawrence leading the pack to a big victory, Dogs coach Hasler had not suffered a defeat on his former home ground for a number of seasons. In fact you would have to go back 11 wins and nearly 4 years to September 5th 2010 when the then, Des Hasler coached Sea Eagles went down, rather ironically to the Bulldogs 30-20.
If Canterbury is to cause an upset it will be through their monster forward pack. If they can get on top of the boys from the northern beaches early, the Manly back line will struggle for room and will not have an enjoyable night at the office. On the other hand, if Brenton Lawrence and Co. can dominate the star studded dogs pack, the points will come thick and fast towards the back end of both halves.
KEY INDIVIDUAL BATTLES
James Graham vs Jason King
These two love to play hard and fast. Both are big, strong, ruthless and will not take a backward step. Look forward to the pair renewing hostilities once King comes into the fray.
Krisnan Inu vs Steve Matai
The two New Zealanders have met in big games before and they’ve left nothing in the tank when coming up against each other and you can expect the same come Friday. Both are fast, possess great footwork and if you get hit by a shoulder, well, you will stay hit.
Michael Ennis vs Jack Littlejohn
Named at halfback for this clash (perhaps a Hasler mind game?) expects Ennis to verbally be into his opposite number early on, trying to throw the youngster off his game, Jittlejohn will not go quietly in the night. Covering previously for Foran and Cherry-Evans this year he has proven he will be up to it and can help guide his team towards a win.
Canterbury base their game around big forwards getting a role on and producing offloads, if Manly can get on top of the Dogs pack and win the arm wrestle as they did in round 13, expect the classy Sea Eagle backs to have open slather towards the back end of each half. This game will be tough, uncompromising and most of all entertaining, the final score line however will not be a true indication, Manly by 18.