Dunce hats for Manly, but watch this new boy Rangi

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Reserve Grader
Phil Gould | July 2, 2007

IN THE end the Dragons held on to secure a narrow win and temporarily end their exasperating stay at the bottom of the premiership ladder. Good stuff.

However, without wanting to rain on their celebration parade, Manly players should be forced to wear dunce caps all week at training as punishment for their dumb attacking performance. I will come back to this shortly.

Both teams struggled to produce points in the first half despite creating plenty of opportunities. However, the game exploded in the second half and ran the full gamut of twists and turns, highs and lows, brilliance and blunders. It kept the fans on the edge of their seats, touched raw nerves, teased fragile emotions and took years off the life expectancy of both coaches.

The Dragons came from behind twice to suddenly find themselves 14 points in front with 14 minutes left on the clock. It's funny though; when you're used to losing, you find it hard to break the habit. The Dragons froze with the finishing post in sight and the Sea Eagles, who are in the habit of winning, roared back to fall only inches short of a remarkable comeback victory.

Now, when the last-placed team in the competition wins any game, let alone against the team running second on the ladder, it deserves all the post-match plaudits.

I will give the Dragons their time in the spotlight. They were enthusiastic and committed for the full 80 minutes.

There were some noticeable changes to their attacking style, making them infinitely more dangerous with the ball.

First, the return of experienced fullback Ben Hornby and the growing confidence of mid-season halfback signing Jamie Soward helped the speedy men out wide get a lot more chances to show their stuff.

Gone was the stodgy, repetitive dummy-half-dominated play that has made the Dragons so easy to defend against. It was replaced with rapid ball movement through spiral passes to youngsters such as Josh Morris, Chase Stanley and the improving Beau Scott, who hit the ball at speed and really troubled the Manly defence.

Second, rookie five-eighth Rangi Chase offered some badly needed guile and finesse to the Dragons' attack, suggesting his time in the top grade could well be extended even when more established stars return from injury.

He's got potential, this kid. When the ball is in his hands, you feel something is about to happen. He fades across the park showing the ball and feigning dummies to supports. He carefully examines the reactions from opposition defenders and explores the possibilities. I like him.

But in defence - oh, the Dragons' right-hand side defence - it's so scary, and not for the opposition.

Had the Manly team concentrated its attack in this direction all day it might've posted a lot more points. It is amazing that the indecision and panic shown by the Dragons' defenders on this side of the field was not recognised and punished by Manly.

When they finally attacked this area late in the second half, they bombed a certain try-scoring opportunity when half Matt Orford passed to the straight-running back-rower Anthony Watmough instead of passing behind him to fullback Michael Robertson. Robertson would've been faced with only one defender to beat with a mile of room and two unmarked teammates outside him.

This was on all day but rarely attempted by Manly, who bumbled around in the middle of the field attempting Lord knows what. It was frustrating to watch. Anyway, six tackles later the Dragons worked the ball to the other end of the field and scored a try off a bomb to jump to that 14-point advantage I mentioned earlier.

Two minutes later Manly came back and ran the exact same play: this time missing decoy runner Watmough, allowing Robertson to deliver a pass to the unmarked Nick Bradley-Qualilawa, who dived over untouched to score.

Had they run similar patterns and plays on this side of the field all day, I'm sure they would've scored several more tries and turned a painful narrow defeat into a comfortable victory.

It was a wonderful game of football, and both teams contributed to a marvellous afternoon of entertainment; but that is little consolation for the losing team.

Especially when it might easily have won, simply by using a little more brainpower.

St George's deficiencies on the right hand defence have been well known for weeks now and Gould has mentioned it previously in the paper an on TV.

Why didn't Des or Orford know this and drive all our attack down that side of their defence all day?

Do we have any tactics at all or is it just do you best each game and hope that we win.


Orford kept taking the wrong option.. he then took the right option but never took it again.

That's the difference between a top quality halfback and Orford and it's exactly what i've been asking of him on here.

I don't want him to kick field goals or produce a one off try to win us a game. I want him to more often then not take the right option, I want him to take the line on, I want him to grab the players and tell them what he is going to do and how he is going to do it.

When he starts doing that Manly will become a powerhouse.
Team P W L PD Pts
17 14 3 141 34
17 12 5 118 30
17 11 6 125 28
18 11 7 209 26
18 10 7 97 25
17 9 8 63 24
17 9 8 46 24
18 10 8 3 24
17 9 8 -56 24
17 8 9 -91 22
18 8 10 25 20
17 7 10 -90 20
18 8 10 -97 20
18 7 10 -34 19
17 6 11 -89 18
17 4 13 -153 14
18 4 14 -217 12
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