Big league preview


Journey Man
Bowen arrow the worry for Sea Eagles

Two years ago Manly was one of the NRL's most exciting sides (even if their results showed wild fluctuations) but if they're going to beat the Cowboys this Sunday, they'll need to stick to what got them into the top eight in the first place – no frills rugby league.

The Sea Eagles face a mammoth task against the dangerous North Queenslanders, but they certainly boast the weapons to wreak their own havoc provided they stick to the right game plan.

And that game plan can be summed up in three words – kick, chase, tackle.

North Queensland are the masters of punishing ill-disciplined sides and they'll be sweating on the home side committing Hari Kari at Brookvale Oval in a game crucial in the top eight battle.

No side in the Telstra Premiership has scored more tries in broken play (12) or directly from opposition turnovers (13) this season than the Cowboys.

They are lethal in any unorthodox situation.

Drop the ball and they'll launch an immediate attack.

Chase your kicks poorly and they'll leave you clutching at thin air.

They are a side that doesn't need a second invitation and leading the charge is fullback Matt Bowen.

The Cowboys custodian has scored exactly half of his side's tries in broken play situations this season and five from turnovers as well as leading the club for tries, line breaks and tackle breaks.

He can single-handedly tear a side apart, as he showed last Saturday night when he scored a dazzling 95-metre try against Penrith.

Notably, Bowen only averages four kick returns per match as opponents increasingly look to keep the ball away, but he averages 62 metres per game anyway behind only St George Illawarra's Clint Greenshields (who averages nine kick returns per game), David Seage and Wade McKinnon.

In fact, while the Cowboys rank third for tries scored from beyond halfway, no player in the Telstra Premiership has scored as many as Bowen, who has raced 50 metres or more on five separate occasions.

The good news for Manly is that only four sides have conceded less tries in defence from that range, but they must be switched on for the entire 80 minutes.

That means returning to the basics that saw them sitting in outright second on the NRL ladder after 13 rounds of the season – cutting down their errors, running from dummy-half and putting pressure on the opposition with a solid kicking game.

If anything, Manly have been guilty of spreading the ball too early in recent weeks as they look to arrest a major form slump.

Once the most prolific dummy-half running side in the premiership, their average runs per game has dropped from 237 at the halfway mark of the competition to 223 after 20 rounds.

Not surprisingly, their last win – other than a 48-26 result over a depleted Newcastle in round 15 – came way back in round 13 when they executed the required game plan perfectly to down the Roosters 22-18.

They completed at 77 per cent, made just 13 errors and kicked early and long, forcing the Roosters to come out of their own territory all night.

The Cowboys will require similar discipline.

Manly can't afford to risk audacious chip kicks or throw the ball wide with abandon.

When they kick they must find open space and cut down on the time Bowen has to run with the ball.

When attacking the line, the Sea Eagles will be better served forcing another set than trying to come up with the miracle play through a chip or even a bomb.

Certainly, Monaghan has the ability to pile the pressure on.

Of all the regular No.7s in the premiership, none boast a better percentage of long kicks to open space than he does.

Monaghan has hit open pastures with 68 per cent of long kicks this season (66 of 97) and five-eighth Michael Witt 50.9 per cent (28 of 55) compared to North Queensland's main kicker Johnathan Thurston at 66.7 (40 of 60) and new half Brett Firman at 45.8 (11 of 24).

And history says the Cowboys don't enjoy playing the boys from Brookvale.

They've won just two of eight clashes and have lost on all five occasions the two clubs have met during the daytime.

But the ball is in their court. If they play smart, they'll cause all sorts of problems for the visitors but lose their way and Bowen will laugh all the way to the tryline.


Kim Jong Dan
Staff member
Tipping Member
You Know even with steppa defence I think his dummy half running could help in this game!


Journey Man
I can see monas kicks to space being an advantage - i doubt we will see many kicks from Witt.

Latest posts

Team P W L PD Pts
24 18 6 333 42
24 18 6 214 42
24 16 8 168 38
24 16 8 124 38
24 14 9 175 35
24 14 10 122 34
24 13 11 -24 32
24 13 11 -137 32
24 12 12 59 30
24 12 12 13 30
24 12 12 4 30
24 11 12 6 29
24 9 15 -111 24
24 9 15 -126 24
24 7 17 -331 20
24 5 19 -199 16
24 4 20 -290 14
Top Bottom