Four massive victories in as many weeks sees the Manly Sea Eagles as THE form team in the NRL that has all other teams looking over their shoulders.
This was supposed to be an ageing team. Written off before the season started as a team that will struggle to make the top eight after a quiet off season recruiting new talent.
The pundits were baying for blood whilst most fans knew that there was a lot more fuel in the tank, a burning ember that would keep flickering all season then explode when needed.
40-12. That is a scoreline Manly players, staff and fans alike will remember for some time.
It is the scoreline that the Storm put on the Sea Eagles in the Preliminary final last year to knock them out of the comp and send the Storm to the Grand Final to become eventual Premiers.
As Manly coach Geoff Toovey put it after the devastating loss, “I don’t mind us losing,” he said. “But to lose like that with so many errors has really gutted us.”
Coaches and players will always no such thing as revenge nor dwelling on the past. Craig Bellamy, Cameron Smith and co admitted it was a driver for the Storm after their 40-Nil whitewash at the hands of the Sea Eagles in 2008.
You can bet the 40-12 loss to the Storm is one of the main driving forces of the Sea Eagles this year. You can see it in their determination. Their cover defence is desperate. Desperation in defence wins competitions. The Sea Eagles boast the 3rd strongest defence in the NRL (14.3 points per game), almost equal with the Rabbitohs (14.2 ppg) and a few points behind the impressive Roosters (11.6 ppg)
The drive inside is also mounting up points. A team that used to wane in second halves and give up leads are now crucifying oppositions. 50 points on the Eels 4 weeks ago, then 30+ points against the Titans, Cowboys and Tigers in the past 3 weeks. This team is focused, clinical and merciless. The Sea Eagles’ attack is second only behind the Rabbitohs, boasting 77 tries compared to the Bunnies’ 81. Add to that the best second half attack in the competition, this is a team no one can count out.
Even more impressive, or worrying for opposition, is the fact they perform better away from home than at Fortress Brookvale.
As for ageing stars, pundits need to look for a new angle with Cherry-Evans (24), Foran (23), B Stewart (28),Tafua (21), Horo (26) all well below the dreaded ’30 has-been’ barrier and being the driving force behind Manly’s turn around in the past few weeks. Toovey and Jamie Lyon have brought together an outstanding mix of youth, skill and experience that makes this team look even more credential than the the Premiership Sea Eagles outfit of 2011.
The run home for the Sea Eagles will be challenging with 4 from 6 away from home – whether that matters per the stas above remains to be seen: Eels (A), Warriors (A), Rabbitohs (A), Raiders (A), Storm (H), Panthers (H).
No doubt, the clashes with the Storm and Raiders will be cracking matches but whatever you do, stop and watch the Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles match on Friday 16th August from Bluetongue Stadium. Both teams will be looking to test their Premiership credentials after the Bunnies snuck away with a W earlier in the season.
With all the talk of a Roosters v Rabbitohs Grand Final, the Toovey’s men will continue to happily fly under the radar and keep racking up the points. Starting this weekend against a dismal Parramatta Eels outfit that always lifts for their grudge match against the Sea Eagles. After being demolished 50-10 by Manly in Round 17, Manly best be wary of the fire inside the Eels who will look for atonement in front of a home crowd on Saturday evening.
Another test for a team that most said shouldn’t be there this time of year. Not only are they there, they are being touted as the best in the comp. Time will tell where the soaring Sea Eagles land in the coming weeks.