The Manly Sea Eagles stay alive in 2021, taking care of a brave yet overmatched Sydney Roosters side. The Sea Eagles now move on to a preliminary final against South Sydney.
Here are the talking points from a week two finals beatdown.
Manly flipped the script
Watching this game gave me a weird sense of deja vu. Manly’s role as hapless victim last Friday was completely reversed, as they did unto the Roosters what the Storm did unto them.
They hit hard, were precise and clean with ball in hand, and took advantage of every opportunity the Roosters gave them – and there were plenty.
Their defence was lightyears ahead of what they offered up last week, only missing four tackles in the first half and hustling to close down danger quickly and efficiently all night. Keeping the Roosters to just one try was a just reward for a good night’s work.
Like I said after their game against the Storm last week – Manly didn’t play all that horribly, they just played Melbourne…
The Roosters killed themselves off early
Everything needed to go right for the Roosters to take the fight to Manly; but they handed the game over without so much as a whimper.
Whatever could go wrong, did – kickoffs went out on the full; penalties were conceded, as were set restart after set restart; kicks went out to gift Manly seven tackle sets… and that was just the first twelve minutes.
The game was over after 20 minutes, well before Sam Walker even had a chance to repeat last week’s late heroics… not that he could have done much anyway, with Daly Cherry-Evans doing as he pleased.
First-half tries to Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans were laughably easy, strolling through floppy defence and taking advantage of poor awareness. It got worse in the second as the Sea Eagles properly buried the 2018-19 premiers.
It was most uncharacteristic for a club with the reputation the Roosters have, but maybe not so much when you think about how they’ve gone in season 2021. This was their seventh double-figure loss to a team which finished above them.
You could say they were gassed after a cliffhanger in humid conditions against the Titans last week, but that’s the easy way out and unfair to Manly. Tonight the Roosters just weren’t good enough, and they had no answers for anything Manly out to them.
Dylan Walker is Hasler’s wildcard
One of the keys to ‘V’landysball’ is to have speed through the middle and impact when forwards are tiring. Dylan Walker is showing he can pack a huge punch off the bench for Des Hasler, coming on for a 40-minute burst on either side of half time.
Walker took the Roosters apart early in the second half, feeding off Jake Trbojevic to put the Roosters on their heels before Tom Trbojevic scored his second, then scoring his own 40-metre effort moments later.
The game was all but dead, but Walker’s shift juuuust made sure they double-tapped the Chooks.
Feast after famine for Tommy Turbo
The Storm might have shown how to contain the Sea Eagles fullback last week, but following the template is easier said than done. Trbojevic tore in from the first whistle and didn’t let up; running for 196 metres, scoring two tries and setting one more up, breaking 10 tackles and making three line breaks (one more than the Roosters managed as a team).
Des Hasler had the luxury of parking Trbojevic after 65 minutes along with Daly Cherry-Evans, so comprehensive was the rout.
So long, Morrises
The Roosters going out means that’s it for Josh and Brett Morris, who announced during the year they’ll be retiring at the end of the season.
The brothers were the try-scoring twins you either loved or cursed, depending on the team either of them were on at the time. What a pair of careers. Premierships, State of Origin, Australian caps, they’ve done it all.
Congratulations to both. And it wouldn’t surprise if they turned up in a coaches box before too long.
So… what’s next?
Manly will face the rested Rabbitohs, who played a whale of a game in week one. The teams have only met once in 2021 – a now thoroughly irrelevant 26-12 win to the Rabbitohs in round two. The Sea Eagles were without Tom Trbojevic, while Souths had Latrell Mitchell at their disposal… that script will be flipped in the preliminary final.
A tip of the cap needs to go to the Roosters for getting this far with such a banged-up squad. They exit the season in finals week two for the second straight year, and can now rest up until it all starts again.
When they had a full squad and ‘V’landysball’ was in its early days, the Roosters were irresistible… then, injuries struck. Only an outright fool would write off Trent Robinson’s men for 2022.