BY S.J. ALEXANDER @samoz94
What: NRL Round 2
Who: Manly Sea Eagles v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Result: Manly 14-12
When and Where: Friday March 14 – Bluetongue Stadium
Match Rating: 7/10
80 Minutes in 80 Seconds: Round two of the NRL season got off to a flier, with the Friday night blockbuster between the Sea Eagles and Rabbitohs certainly delivering. The first ten minutes were extremely intense, with Manly’s barnstorming runs, crunching tackles and expansive attacking play putting the Rabbits on the back foot. However, the game soon turned very sloppy, with both sides turning over possession all too easily – onlookers would have been forgiven for thinking the ball was covered in soap. Despite coach Geoff Toovey branding his team “underdogs” coming into the match, the Sea Eagles came out flying, crossing over in the corner in the seventh minute through extradited Eel Cheyse Blair. After being kept quiet in an arm wrestle between two monstrous forward packs, the Rabbitohs finally crossed the line following a large break from flier Nathan Merritt, which ultimately led to a try for centre Beau Champion. As the momentum of the game shifted from side to side, not only due to the constant change of possession, but the tough battle in the middle, it was down to the great footwork of Jamie Buhrer breaking the Rabbitohs’ wall of defence and offloading to a free-running Cherry Evans to seal the game for the Eagles in the 64th minute. The match was the full package, with tensions boiling between the Burgess brothers and returning Eagles hard-man Jason King, referee controversies, and some of what we all love about the game so much – that hard-fought, blue-collar brawl between two gritty forward packs.
Who Killed It: Showing why he is a member of one of the most dangerous and dynamic halves pairings in the game, Daly Cherry-Evans absolutely blew South Sydney away with his brilliant kicking, passing and attack play – rounding off a superb all-round performance. He, and partner Kieran Foran, showed the inexperienced Rabbitohs halves pairing just how to seize a win from the clutches of defeat, with Cherry-Evans topping it off by bagging himself a match-winning four-pointer.
Who Stank It Up: Possibly a bit harsh, but after claiming a hat-trick last week, Greg Inglis came into the game with huge expectations and didn’t deliver. In a game rife with penalties and turnovers, Inglis’ influence was muffled and he didn’t produce his usual impact when his team needed him most. Other notably disappointing performances were those of referees Shane Hayne and Chris James, who made several contentious decisions, the most prominent being a poor Ben Lowe play-the-ball which led to a South Sydney try.
What Do I Need To Know: Not one to shy away from the spotlight, Anthony Watmough has yet again found himself in hot water after being placed on report for a swinging arm tackle on Rabbitohs enforcer Dave Tyrrell. Dylan Walker also sent shockwaves through the Rabbitohs camp when he went down clutching his ankle. Although he played on, he was obviously affected, struggling in the second half.
What The…: Why Manly chose to hold their clash with the Rabbits on the Central Coast has left many critics scratching their heads. Following the NRL’s new slogan of being “all about the fans”, the dismal crowd further reinforced scrutiny of the NRL’s membership drive and has highlighted the need for the NRL to take action to repair their recruitment woes.
Look Up Ahead: The Bunnies travel away to take on the rampaging Tigers, while Manly host a disappointing Eels outfit at Brookvale Oval.
Manly Sea Eagles 14
Tries: Blair, Cherry-Evans
Goals: Lyon 3
South Sydney Rabbitohs 12
Tries: Burgess, Champion
Goals: Reynolds 2