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Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 22 def Brisbane Broncos 20

A FINE day at the country’s best footy ground saw a fabulous game come down to the wire, with the visitors taking the spoils in front of another big Brisbane crowd.

The Sea Eagles will take a veritable motherlode from this win, they came back from 16 points down, scored some brilliant tries, pulled off big hits in defence and knocked over a premiership favourite in their backyard. Where are their critics now? Oh, they’re still out there. They’re just fermenting. Because Manly aren’t out of the woods yet – but there are certainly less trees.

The Broncos won’t be disheartened by this showing; they scored some fine tries and never gave up, and were in this game up to their ear-lobes for all bar the last minute. That said, they were probably guilty of taking their foot off the jugular.

But gee, hard to criticise them.

This was a super game between two fine teams, and either side would have been worthy victors.

The Game Swung When… After 30 minutes the Broncos were up 16-0 and plenty in the crowd were thinking Manly were shot ducks – but not the Sea Eagles. They rallied courageously on the back of some Jamie Lyon brilliance, some bone-crunching defence and a little bit of luck.

Lyon scored tries in the 33rd, 46th and 70th minutes – all chasing grubbers. He also landed three goals for a stand-out, man-of-the-match performance.

Some will say the game turned when Corey Parker could not convert Brisbane’s fourth try and level the scores. Some might say the penalty to Manly in front in the 72nd minute was the game-breaker. And they might have a case. But from this vantage point it was Manly’s defence early in the second half when down by 10 points that won them this game. With the Broncos with six tackles 10 metres out, Manly weathered the storm, promoted the ball up-field and scored a try (to Lyon). When Lyon converted and got his team within four, all the momentum was with the visitors. They believed.

But the Broncos rallied, as champions do. They went close to scoring in minutes 60, 62 and 64, and then with three minutes on the clock the ball was kicked high to Antonio Winterstein on the left wing who took a fantastic grab and stretched over in the corner. Parker had a good crack at converting from just inside the touchline, but the ball didn’t curl in sufficiently, shaving the right-hand upright. And that was the ball game.

Who Was Hot…
A no-brainer: J. Lyon (112 metres, 25 tackles, a line break and three tries) had a barnstormer. He looked great running down the right, chased kicks like a kelpie, and will have done his quest for “No Rep Duties” no favours.

Anthony Watmough (152 metres) was involved in several bell-ringing tackles and provided plenty of starch in the middle. Steve Matai hit hard and made five tackle breaks. The man is a missile. Otherwise, it was a real team effort from the premiers. Their fans should be proud.

The Broncos were best served by Parker (127 metres with 11 tackle breaks) who made several good charges and played a fine lock forward’s game. Kicked for goal well, too, despite his last-minute miss.

Livewire centre Alex Glenn (three tackle breaks) looked light on his feet and scored a try, Israel Folau (two try assists) was a huge handful down the right, while Peter Wallace (two try assists) drove the side around beautifully and has formed a halves combination with Darren Lockyer that’s probably the best in the game.

Who Was Not…  Hard to single out anyone in a game as good as this one; it would seem churlish.

That said… Manly’s defence on the left fringe wasn’t hot, Michael Bani came up short a time or two. But then he was marking Israel, a man who’s made just about everyone look silly.

The teams missed 60 tackles.

Brisbane did not get the ball to Folau on the right wing in the second half; Michael Bani was not unhappy about this.

Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… A lot of fine tries in this game but the Broncos’ first was a cracker. After strong lead-up play by Alex Glenn, Parker took the ball one off the ruck, dummied, shimmied and ran through the Eagles’ defence. He then lofted a nice pass for Big Israel on the wing who thundered downfield before stabbing a perfect infield grubber that bobbled in goal for Joel Clinton to just about squash as he landed upon it for a rare ‘meat pie’.

Winterstein (five tackle breaks and 13 runs) on the Broncos’ left wing leapt like Israel for the Broncos’ third try following a pin-point bomb by Wallace. Winterstein was at it again in the 78th minute, taking a superb grab from another Wallace bomb and planting the ball over with conviction. He keeps this up he’ll be mentioned in the same breath as Big Izzy.

Bad Boys… None.

Refs Watch… Tony Archer and Matt Cecchin had fine games. Certainly they could make a case for all their decisions. The players quibbled… but players do that.

Video ref Paul Simpkins ruled two of Lyon’s tries as just that – and he, too, could make a case. The rule about “advancing the ball on your fingertips” is ridiculous – what, players can’t juggle the ball?

It’s like asking slips fieldsman to only catch one grab. And tapping the ball over an opponent’s head is a skill (although this was more a go-for grab). You can’t pass to yourself. But you can juggle it. And who’s to say what’s a juggle, and what’s a deliberate tap? Would anyone be honest? Brush it. Best & Fairest… 3 points – Jamie Lyon (Manly): A hat-trick of tries, a hat-trick of goals. Cracking game from the Eagles’ man-most-likely; 2 points – Corey Parker (Brisbane): Ran with menace, tackled with same; 1 point – Anthony Watmough (Manly):  A host of important tackles (26) from an important player.

Sea Eagles 22 (J Lyon 3, M Bani tries; J Lyon 3 goals) def Broncos 20 (A Winterstein 2, J Clinton, A Glenn tries; C Parker 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 27,527.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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