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AS IT HAPPENED: Storm's stunning start sinks insipid Sea Eagles

10th September, 2021
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Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

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Roar Guru
10th September, 2021
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Finals footy gets underway tonight when the Melbourne Storm take on the Manly Sea Eagles at Sunshine Coast Stadium. Join The Roar for live scores and commentary of the qualifying final from 7:50pm (AEST).

It’s the best time of year for a footy fan – finals time. Kicking us off in 2021, this one promises to be a classic, with the winner progressing through to a preliminary final. While the Storm don’t get the advantage of playing at AAMI Park, they get the next best thing; playing at their home away from home in Queensland.

With a top-two spot sewn up weeks ago, Melbourne have followed a resting policy recently, which has perhaps had an impact on their performances. They took out the minor premiership last weekend with an uninspiring 28-16 win over the Sharks, but saw their remarkably 19-game winning streak ended by the Eels the week prior.

The real bright light out of last week’s performance was the return to form of Ryan Papenhuyzen, who crossed for a hat-trick. If he can repeat the dose this weekend, Manly will be doing well to smother the Storm’s attack.

The cavalry are back for the Storm for finals action, headlined by Cameron Munster, who has been named but will need to pass a fitness test. George Jennings and Reimis Smith return to the backline, with Nicho Hynes getting a seat on the bench. Jesse Bromwich, Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi and Kenny Bromwich all are back in the pack. The big absence for Melbourne is Josh Addo-Carr, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury.

It’s hard to believe that Manly have made the top four after losing their first five games. It’s also no coincidence that their resurgence started with the return of Tom Trbojevic, who is odds on to claim the Dally M medal.

Apart from individual brilliance, he also makes players around him look like world-beaters. This was on display again against the Cowboys last week, with Reuben Garrick and Jason Saab co-stars in the 46-18 win. If the Storm are to win, they need to minimise Tommy Turbo’s impact as much as they can.

Manly take on a much more settled appearance, though hooker Lachlan Croker is a big out after pulling up with back soreness during the week. Karl Lawton will start in his place, with Josh Aloiai also returning at prop and Toafofoa Sipley missing out on the 17.

Prediction

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Like most finals, this is going to be won in the forwards.

If the Manly pack can gain the ascendency, Daly Cherry-Evans will be kicking for the corners, putting Jennings and Isaac Lumelume under plenty of pressure.

However, I think the Melbourne forwards have a slight edge, and their bench holds a clear advantage against the Sea Eagles’ interchange.

On that basis, I think that the Storm will move one step closer to another grand final.

Melbourne Storm by 4

Game information

Kick-off: 7:50pm (AEST)
Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium
TV: Channel Nine, Fox League
Online: Kayo Sports, Foxtel Now, Foxtel GO, 9Now
Betting: Storm $1.37, Sea Eagles $3.10 (odds via PlayUp)

Teams

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Melbourne Storm
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. George Jennings 3. Reimis Smith 4. Justin Olam 5. Isaac Lumelume 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich (c) 9. Brandon Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane (c)

Bench/Reserves: 14. Harry Grant 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 17. Nicho Hynes | 19. Tom Eisenhuth 21. Marion Seve

Manly Sea Eagles
1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jason Saab 3. Brad Parker 4. Morgan Harper 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (c) 8. Josh Aloiai 15. Karl Lawton 10. Martin Taupau 11. Haumole Olakau’atu 12. Josh Schuster 13. Jake Trbojevic

Bench/Reserves: 14. Dylan Walker 16. Sean Keppie 17. Taniela Paseka, 20. Curtis Sironen | 18. Toafofoa Sipley 19. Moses Suli

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