This game was a demonstration of how entertaining rugby league can be. It was the first game of the new season played in dry conditions, and didn't it show.
In the opening set of six, Manly set a hectic pace as they travelled the length of the field through offloading and passing the ball wide. During the course of the next 79 minutes the pace hardly slowed, and the game had everything: brilliant team tries, brilliant individual tries, great passing and great kicking. There was some good defence displayed by both teams, at times, but this wasn't a day for defence. It was a day for attack, and attack they did.
Midway through the first half Manly led 16-0 and it was clear coach Geoff Toovey's game plan was to run the big Warriors team around with plenty of ball movement. We have seen Manly employ these tactics at times in recent seasons but this was different. The Sea Eagles forwards seemed intent on passing the ball before the line or offloading in tackles, while Anthony Watmough produced a crop of over-the-top basketball style passes to put Jamie Lyon into space. This was great play.
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Had Manly been leading as they were during Des Hasler's regime, they would have put the passing away for a while and tried to consolidate their lead with a more controlled game. This type of approach looked to be the furthest thing from the players' minds as they continued to chance their arms.
As for the Warriors, they hadn't seen the ball and had to bide their time for an opportunity to pressure Manly's try line. When it came, the game's newest superstar, Shaun Johnson, took centre stage. Johnson laid on a try for Manu Vatuvei and scored one himself, displaying absolutely phenomenal footwork on both occasions.
The first half wound down with the Warriors within striking distance at 16-10 and both teams looking extremely dangerous with the ball. We had already seen five tries in the first half and as the Sea Eagles passed the ball into touch looking for another break as the siren sounded it was a disappointing to have half-time at all; just keep the entertainment coming, I say.
However, spare a thought for the coaches Brian McClennan and Toovey at this point, both in their debut game as NRL coaches. While the rest of us were rubbing our hands together saying ''how good is this?'', McClennan and Toovey had the unenviable job of trying to settle these two teams down.
You didn't need to be a coach of any experience to know that the team that controlled the ball best would win this game. The last thing those of us watching wanted to see was either of the teams curb their enthusiasm, but coaches get paid on results not razzle dazzle.
As it turned out, either McClennan and Toovey told their players to continue the entertainment as the crowd was loving it or the teams didn't quite heed their coach's advice. What this meant for the rest of us was more of the sparkling entertainment. With just over 10 minutes to go the Warriors got to within two points and, again, the coach would have been saying ''if we can control the ball from here, we'll win''. But they couldn't, and they didn't. What a game!
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/heady-stuff-but-it-would-have-had-coaches-spewing-20120304-1ub4j.html#ixzz1oDdudFTV