Sea Eagles opt for rest over feast of easy points
Bringing back the biff ... Nathan Hindmarsh strikes at Steve Matai.
Manly gave us a taste of the good, the bad and the ugly in their win over Parramatta yesterday.
They say it's hard to be grim when you don't have to be. Maybe so. Manly are certainly not the first team in history to have a game won a long way from home with a huge lead and then suddenly start looking for an easy passage to the full-time siren.
But given their position on the ladder and the importance of a top-four finish come September, one would have expected them to be more ruthless in their endeavours to post as big a winning margin as possible against their understrength rivals. Instead the Manly boys virtually downed tools and coasted for the remainder of the contest in a very meek display.
In allowing Parramatta to score a cheaply earned 24 points of their own in the latter stages of the match, Manly squandered a perfect opportunity to improve their for-and-against scoring statistics and make a statement about their 2012 title credentials. Hopefully, it doesn't come back to bite them, but if they miss out on a top-four position through points differential, they will only have themselves to blame.
In a sometimes brilliant, sometimes nonchalant, but always entertaining first 45 minutes from Manly, they outclassed their rivals and raced to a 40-0 lead. Winger David Williams scored four first-half tries. This bag of touchdowns and the lopsided scoreline had statisticians reaching for the history books with several records begging to be broken on a sunny winter's day. Most tries in a game. Most points in a game. Biggest winning margins. It seemed all would fall before full-time, provided Manly didn't lose interest or run out of puff.
At this stage the Eels were offering only token resistance. Under-strength and lacking direction, they resembled a star-struck schoolboy team playing more illustrious rivals. They were not competing in the collisions, and often found themselves watching the defending premiers go about their work.
The Sea Eagles were diligent in their ball movement, and at the critical points were punching holes in the visitors' defensive line at will. Parramatta's youngsters protecting the right side of the field had no answer for the might and skill of Manly's Kieran Foran, Brett Stewart, Tony Williams, Steve Matai and Jorge Taufua. Every time Manly moved the ball in this direction they found space, making easy metres down the left side of the field. If they didn't score on that play (and twice they did), they simply spun the ball to the opposite side of the field to outnumber Parramatta's disorganised line and score in the right corner. This sequence occurred on three occasions, all resulting in tries to David Williams.
The other Williams in the Manly team, Big Tony, is a mountain of a man, an absolute powerhouse. I'd hate to see what would happen if he ever got angry with them. At the moment he is content to play when he has to. He is not chasing extra work on the field. At times you get the feeling he is even taking it easy on his smaller opponents. He stands and pushes them away rather than stomp all over them, as I'm sure he is capable of doing.
Parramatta should be given credit for their second-half effort. Missing a number of key players, the first half would have been an intimidating environment for some of their younger players as the score ran against them. So to rally with the coach at half-time and put in a better second period deserves praise.
It's hard to know how Manly will feel after this match. In the end a win is a win, I suppose, but I suspect that if they did try to sing the team song after the game, it would have been a bit like swallowing broken glass.
Better days ahead, perhaps.