FOR the second time this season Manly have recorded back-to-back victories – however this time they managed to do so without the great white elephant in the room.
‘No Brett Stewart, no victory’ has been the mantra opposition teams thought they could take to Brookvale Oval for the duration of the champion fullback’s stint on the sidelines – but that theory has been swiftly debunked in two displays which have the Sea Eagles back to their winning ways.
An early injury to Parramatta’s Kris Keating left the visitors struggling for attacking structure, and Manly took advantage after Jarryd Hayne gave the Eels a 4-0 lead early.
Soon after it was Jamie Lyon slipping through the defence to set up Sea Eagles hooker Matt Ballin – and then Matt Orford struck consecutive blows, laying on tries for both Shane Rodney and Chris Bailey in quick succession.
When Lyon set up David Williams’ first try just before the half-time break, the match was all but over at 22-4, but more misery was to be piled on after the interval with Anthony Watmough crossing for his first ‘meat pie’ of the season and David Williams rounding out the convincing win with a trademark bullish run to the corner to seal a 24-point victory.
The Game Swung When… Aggressive Manly second-rower Anthony Watmough ironed out young Eels halfback Kris Keating. The match was barely 10 minutes old when Watmough struck with a brutal, but legal, front-on tackle and Keating was rushed to the sheds with a broken jaw. He didn’t return, and Parramatta never managed to get out of first gear as Manly gradually took control of the match.
Who Was Hot… Manly were well led by an array of troops who seemed to revel in some sunny Sunday afternoon conditions – Jamie Lyon continued his outstanding form, setting up two tries, running for 80 metres with one line break, while Matt Orford (four try assists) had his best game of the season.
‘Big bopper’ George Rose made big inroads off the bench, Shane Rodney continued his consistent form this year with 109 metres, 17 tackles, one line break and a try and Anthony Watmough produced the numbers we have come to expect from him – 18 runs for 141 metres and 22 tackles.
Parramatta owe fullback Jarryd Hayne a whole-hearted apology – the NSW hopeful was the only Eel to have a crack against last year’s premiers. Hayne scored two wonderful tries and, with a game-high 13 tackle-breaks, proved very difficult to contain all match.
Who Was Not… The rest of the Parramatta Eels (with a possible exception to workaholic back-rower Nathan Hindmarsh).
The experiment of moving Ben Smith to the back row has not sparked anything, with the former centre managing just two runs all match, while the centre/wing combination of Joel Reddy and Luke Burt managed to miss seven tackles.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Hayne’s second try was either a feat of outstanding accuracy, or simply some good fortune falling the way of a team that desperately needed it. Either way, it looked good.
Lacking a fifth-tackle option, the ball was aimlessly tossed from one side of the field to the other, when Hayne scooped it up off the deck, kicked ahead for himself before the ball hit the upright and bounced back into the fullback’s grasp. It was a rare bright spot in an otherwise dull day for Parra fans – but it showed there may still be life left this season if the players stay switched on.
Bad Boys… Manly prop Jason King was put on report for a high shot on Parramatta captain Nathan Cayless. Cayless (concussion) did not return to the field, but King was later cleared.
Ref Watch… Aside from some at-times overzealous policing of the ruck against both sides, this contest was controversy-free.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Jamie Lyon (Sea Eagles): Whenever the Sea Eagles need a spark, they shift the ball to the right and let Lyon run wild. Was easily their most dangerous; 2 points – Matt Orford (Sea Eagles): Four try assists from the captain had the attack purring for the first time this season; 1 point – Jarryd Hayne (Eels): Tried hard all match and came up with two impressive tries, but had little support from team-mates.
Sea Eagles 34 (D Williams 2, M Ballin, S Rodney, C Bailey, A Watmough tries; Lyon 5 goals) def Eels 10 (J Hayne 2 tries, L Burt goal) at Brookvale Oval. Crowd: 15,916.