The Canterbury Bulldogs have beaten the Manly Sea Eagles 16-10 to earn next weekend off and book a place in week three of the finals.
The game was a brutal one that at times saw momentum swing from one side to the other.
The Sea Eagles could not have hoped for a better start to the game as the Bulldogs dropped a lot of ball in their own half of the field and the Sea Eagles dominated posession and field position. It was against that run of play that the Bulldogs scored the first points of the game though as Josh Morris took on the defense with his pace and looked back inside to find a Wright on the inside who scored under the posts.
The Bulldogs looked to be on top when both teams come together in a bit of a blow up. Nothing really come of it, but after that the Sea Eagles got the better run of play as they settled quicker. They scored in the 27th minute through Jorge Taufua and finished out the half the better of the two teams as Brett Stewart exploded onto a Tony Williams pass to score under the sticks and help give Manly the 106 halftime lead.
The second half was a war up front. Aiden Toleman and James Graham were outstanding and just relentlessly through themselves at the manly defense all night. For the Sea Eagles, Glenn Stewart was playing at a completely different level while Tony Williams was almost unstoppable on the fringes. The second half was a lot close than the first half in a lot of ways and it took a bit of brilliance to put points on the board.
Kris Keating recieved the ball from a broken play ten meters out from the Sea Eagles line, kicked towards the posts, out paced everyone for the ball and score an incredible solo try under the posts. It game the Bulldogs a 12-10 lead and once again, it was game on.
As the second half played out it become apparent that the Sea Eagles attack just wasn’t quite clicking. They had been without Jamie Lyon for mopst of the game so their league best attack down the right hand side was suffering. Their forwards were holding their own but in the games, Foran and Cherry-Evans just couldn’t get clicking.
Then from a long kick down field the Bulldogs spread the ball wide in their own 20 meter zone. The ball got out on the wing to Josh Morris, and he just put the afterbruners on. he took on the defense once again down the sideline, put a pass inside to Ban Barba and the Dogs extended their lead. While Krisnin Inu couldn’t convert the kick, it game the Bulldogs a 16-10 lead and now, it was up to Manly to lift.
At times, it looked like that was about to happen. A couple of bad dropped balls in front of their own posts gave the Sea Eagles perfect opportunities to hit back. They just couldn’t get the job done though. They looked disjointed close to the Bulldogs line and ended up looking for trick plays and individual efforts to try and cross the line.
One key moment late in the game saw Steve Matai go close to scoring only to be hit in a ball and all tackle by Toleman who saved a try. It was about as close as Manly got in the second half as they seemed to run out of steam while the Bulldogs finished the stronger of the two clubs.
So with the win, the Bulldogs get week 2 of the finals series off and they go straight through to week 3. The Sea Eagles meanwhile get a second chance no matter what. They will back up next week, but with a few injuries to deal with, a possible suspension to Steve Matai coming up and with an attack that just isn’t getting the job done in the second half.
What a way to kick off the finals!