Manly hark back to '90s

UFO Hunter
Manly hark back to '90s

By Brent Read
March 27, 2005

Sea Eagles 25 Storm 18
IT'S been nine years since Manly finished a united competition on top of the table, but the Sea Eagles and their faithful are dreaming of the good times after defeating Melbourne at Brookvale Oval to stay top of the 2005 ladder.

The smell of the 1990s wafted through the air on the peninsula.

More than 15,000 spectators crammed into Brookvale, Manly captain Michael Monaghan terrorised the opposition and referee Steve Clark – much like Geoff Toovey did a decade ago – and the Sea Eagles pack dominated its opposition.

Sound familiar?

"The closest comparison to those great sides is their defence," Steve Menzies, one of the few survivors of the club's 1996 grand final-winning side, said.

"It's a good platform to start on the way we have defended this year.

"It's definitely got a good feeling but it's a bit tough to compare great sides like that that played grand finals.

"Everything is going in the right direction."

Sacked winger John Hopoate – who was given a 17-week suspension and his marching orders this week – mixed with the players in the dressing room before and after the game, and inspired them with his words.

"Hoppa led the way being strong saying that's the way it goes, take it on the chin, don't feel sorry for me," Menzies said.

"He marked the week by saying don't dwell on what's happened."

They didn't.

The Sea Eagles conceded the first try when Storm centre Steve Bell crossed after only two minutes, but they owned the remainder of the half thanks to a healthy penalty count.

And they defended stoutly in the second stanza, sealing victory with two minutes remaining when Monaghan kicked a 30m field goal.

There were heroes aplenty for the home side, none more so than Ben Kennedy, who played with a slight calf tear, and centre Steve Matai, who spent last season in the Queensland Cup with Ipswich and received a late call-up for the injured Terry Hill.

"I spoke to the doc and I spoke to the physio and they were both pretty happy to let me go in – they said there was minimal chance of doing anything worse and that's good enough for me," said Kennedy, who combined with Daniel Heckenberg to produce a decisive tackle on Dallas Johnson as his side clung to a six-point lead with 11 minutes remaining.

"They took me off (in the first half) and put me back on, (and) I said you're not taking me off in the second half."

Canberra can join Manly in top spot with a win over South Sydney tomorrow, but the Sea Eagles are assured of retaining a share of the competition lead next week – they have the bye.

"Manly haven't had that for a long, long time," Kennedy said of top spot.

"When was the last time, eight years ago? You don't want to get carried away but it's good for people to get excited and revved up.

"We don't want to get much more credit in saying that. We don't want to get too carried away with it."

Coach Des Hasler has already taken steps to ensure that won't happen.

"The players are aware of that," he said.

"That's the first thing I mentioned after the game. We have worked hard up to here. It all starts again."

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy and captain Robbie Kearns were concerned with the first-half penalty count – and both said they could see Manly remaining competitive.

"I think both Ben Kennedy and Brent Kite give them a lot of punch up front," Kearns said.

"If they play with the passion they did today week-in, week-out, they're most probably going to have more wins than losses. They're a really good side so they'll be around."

MANLY 25 (D Heckenberg S Dunley C Randall B Stewart tries M Witt 4 goals M Monaghan field goal) MELBOURNE 18 (S Bell C Cronk B Slater tries C Smith 3 goals) at Brookvale Oval. Referee: S Clark. Crowd: 15,470.

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