In-form Manly ready for Roosters
A Manly side rejuvenated by a big 36-0 Round 4 win over Canterbury say they are ready for a physical battle in the middle against a Roosters side they edged out in a tough trial hit-out six weeks ago.
Manly's understrength forward pack got the job done against the Cowboys in Townsville in Round 3 to help the team to their first win of the season but the return of aggressive props Marty Taupau and Addin Fonua-Blake – combined with some wonderful efforts from the likes of Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic – saw the side rack up a huge score against the Dogs.
They face their toughest ask of the year to date though against an unbeaten Roosters outfit on Friday however.
"Everyone likes a challenge to see where they're at in terms of the forward pack you've definitely got some big boppers in their team but it's nothing we're not used to," Taupau said this week.
"We played against them in the trials and we sized up against them but it's always going to be a different game when you're on the big stage. It's going to be interesting, especially with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Dylan Napa. They're probably the two we've got to look out for."
The fiery Kiwi international said he liked to measure himself against fellow big men – especially another Kiwi enforcer like Waerea-Hargreaves.
"I always take a challenge on board, I like that aggression," he said.
"I like challenging myself, especially against Jared who's been a Kiwi player as well. I like to size up and see if we can get one up."
Back-rower Curtis Sironen is another who remembers a heavy confrontation in that Gosford trial from February, which saw Manly prevail 24-22.
"We played them in a trial match and there was a few sore bodies after that game – I was one of them!" Sironen laughed.
"They've got big front-rowers, big aggressive players, big outside backs. It's a real night for us to try and match them in that physical area and get on the front foot.
"We played well [against Canterbury] but it didn't get into that grinding match. The Bulldogs were off their game a bit. The Roosters we're expecting a whole other thing on Friday, they're the benchmark and it's really going to be a big test for us."
Halfback Daly Cherry-Evans is coming off his best game of the year so far and was looking forward to a personal duel with star Roosters half Mitch Pearce.
"Two weeks is a bloody long time in rugby league and things have definitely changes around here, all for the better which is great," Cherry-Evans laughed of the team's reversal in fortunes since starting the season with back-to-back defeats.
"I am looking forward to the personal match-up against Mitchell. [He's the] current NSW halfback, great player and he's leading the side well so I'm looking forward to the challenge.
"[Their halves] have been great, they're four from four and that's no secret off the back of how they've been playing."
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Manly prop Nate Myles praised the efforts of the team's other middle forwards in establishing their dominance over the past fortnight.
"Our brand of footy has been a little bit more consistent since the first couple of rounds. We're two and two at the moment which isn't anything to write home about but definitely a little bit more consistent through the 80 minutes," Myles said.
"I think BJ Lawrence has been phenomenal the first couple of games. I've got nothing but admiration in regards to the way he's come back from his injury and he's definitely finding his feet and getting back into that form we know he can play.
"He's a constant giver in regards to his role on the field. He's not selfish, he just does a lot of things that other people don't want to do and he makes it look good. He's a fast, mobile front-rower and it's good to have him on our side.
"All of our forwards are going really well, Jakey [Trbojevic] is holding the middle really good and we're not overworking him as he probably has been the last one or two seasons and our back rowers 'Siro' and Franky [Winterstein] have been phenomenal over the last couple of weeks and changed our style of footy where they can get involved a little bit more and they're relishing it."
Myles added he didn't realise at the time just how dominant Cherry-Evans' performance against Canterbury was.
"I didn't understand how good he went until someone broke it down for me," he said.
"I think he had five try assists which is phenomenal for one individual to be doing that and his contribution around the younger guys and even the older guys has been very stabling and I look forward to seeing him keep improving."