After a dusty home win Toov's and the boys flew north for a Broncos Friday night showdown determined to swoop a vital pre origin two points.
Football is all about attitude and it was never in doubt we'd throw absolutely everything at this game just as we did for the Friday night Desdogs war a fortnight ago. An intriguing balance of missed stars set the scene with us once again missing Keiran Foran and Tony Williams, but having that more than offset by Brisbane's damaging loss of Wallace and Hodges.
The opening sets to a game after often a telling factor and it was more than clear we meant business tackling hard and setting our right side attack of DCE, Glenn, Lyon and Wolfman to work with great effect. Just 3 minutes in and this potent mix sliced open the Brisbane left edge with a brilliant attacking move that saw Glenn and Lyon put Wolfman away with precision before receiving the perfect inside return pass to race over and score. Talk about a great kick start.
Attacking their line 5 minutes later we looked set to double the dose but a penalty in front spared Brisbane and we took the obligatory 2 pointer for an 8-0 lead. You had the feeling the Broncos might buckle under this early pressure, but they did just the opposite grinding their way back into the match with some heavy metres. In the 20th minute Reed put a hole through some soggy right side defence to beg one back, but Parker's conversion was a shocker leaving the score at 8-4.
Dangerous cross goal kicks became their prime assault pressuring our left side troubled border with Matai and Taufua seemingly a little unsure of their defensive posts. The Broncos were now piling on the heat and looking the stronger side for it with two more tries in the 26th and 30th minutes, but another two conversion shockers from Parker were an incredibly fortunate lifeline keeping the score at just 12-8.
Sensing the reprieve we came back strongly with a lovely left side Brett ball out to Matai who pieced the hole perfectly to score. With half time arriving in a flash our 14-12 lead was an unexpected bonus and set up an exciting second half.
This game was set for a titanic struggle and just 4 minutes into the 2nd half Brisbane took the lead once again with Gillett prizing another cross field ball to steal back the lead, but Parkers 4th conversion shocker was yet another lottery win leaving it again just a 2 point lead at 16-14 despite Brisbane's 4 tries to our 2.
More titanic battles ensued and both sets of forwards were working overtime. Parker, Thaiday, Hannant and the very impressive brute Josh McGuire all causing destruction. On our side Kingy was forging great metres as was the workaholic Watmough with his non stop barrages. A game so intense and evenly matched it was impossible for anyone to predict the out come.
Toovs was like a jack in the coaches box leaping up and down, snatching the headphones and shouting instructions. Even Dessie watching on from the sidelines must have cracked a smile. Another lovely right side play saw Brett lob a nice ball out to Lyon, whose god given instincts straightened the attack to perfection before effortlessly flicking a behind the back ace to the ever alert Wolfman, who in turn brilliantly crushed his way through a Broncos barrier to seal the try.
Once again we'd hit the lead at 20-16 in the 55th minute, and just like the early first half lead you sensed we might again break the Broncos shackles and pull away, but the 40,000 strong crowd were urging the match to go to the wire. Both sides stepped up the artillery with the Broncos continuing their left to right cross field granade kicks to scary effect, with our uncertain defence allowing Gillett to pluck yet another try in the 62nd minute. With Parker relieved of his kicking woes Norman slotted the Broncos first conversion of the night them take a 22-20 lead, unbelievably the 6th lead change of the night.
The next 17 minutes continued the heart in mouth battle with the minutes flying by. In a flash there was just 7 left on the clock as Gould ominously forecast how long they would be for Brisbane, yet how incredibly fast they would be for us. Anything could happen, but the one thing you'd bet a million dollars against would be not one but two calamitous Brett Stewart errors. One a fumbled play the ball in our critical 10 metre defensive zone, and minute later a mid field knock on shocker. Brett threw his head to the heavens in sheer disbelief and we all looked up with him to say a final prayer, but the minutes were beating us. Worse still Watmough received a crushing blow from behind leaving him stunned with a limp arm, shuffling off the field head down to everyones shock. It's not often you see the human tank succumb to injury.
The final minutes ticked by and with it seemingly the match. A deep Broncos kick was fielded just 10 metres out by Wolfman and the postscripts were already beginning. A gallant effort from Manly but a bulldozing win by the Bronco, but as this season has shown 90 seconds is a long time in football. With one last almighty throw of the dice we chanced our left side attack and the unbelievable Stevie Matai pierced a hole scorching downfield as we all leapt to our feet. Brought down 20 metres out the Broncos defence was in disarray as we teased to the left before expertly re directing to the right for our magnificent captain Lyon to rip the last line to shreds and time the perfect pass for Wolfman to dive in the corner.
Toovs thew the water bottle at the window with a smile rarely seen. The Brett prayers were answered, a try from the football heavens on the stoke of full time and a magnificent win to savour. Manly 24 Brisbane 22.
Brett Stewart: Yes he's still not at his best and yes they were two never seen before (or likely ever again) errors but his presence and influence on the team is priceless.
Jorge Taufua: The ability is definitely there, but more defensive mis reads and a zero tackle count raise some alarms, is the massively improved Whare a better option?
Steve Matai: Another match winning sensational line break right when it was so desperately needed, what a player.
Jamie Lyon: Man of the match. Say no more.
Wolfman: Must have sunk a six pack of Red Bull's, inspired performance with 19 runs and 173 golden metres.
Liam Foran: Doing the job to the best of his ability and will be a very important back up for the remainder of the season.
Daly Cherry-Evans: A little too much of the running in circles but nothing to much to worry about,and you can bet he can't wait for Keiran to return.
Glenn Stewart: The Rock of Gibraltar. Magnificent.
Anthony Watmough: Superb workaholic game so unluckily stifled by the late injury.
Daniel Harrison: Improved performance worked hard and didn't panic with his pass for the winning try.
Jason King: 22 tackles and 120 metres. Big effort.
Matt Ballin: 57 tackles. Say no more.
Brent Kite: Good when out there but only 33 minutes, presumably the pace of the game needing the rotation.
Jamie Buhrer: Not sure we needed those grubbers, but the other 99.5% of his game was fantastic. Love his energy.
Joe Guluvao: I'm totally in the dark with Joe's minutes, just 13 tonight, can someone explain? Is he not match fit?
Darcy Lussick: Needs more game time but steadily improving, just like to see some bigger charges.
George Rose: Still looking like, well you know, but took some big hit ups and so much fun watching the defenders struggle to get a hold of the rig.
It's not often you win a game scoring less tries, and on top of that after 7 lead changes. The GREAT thing about this team is they never ever give up and tonight that attitude has landed a howling win.
Brett's two mistakes so rare they're barely worth discussing, a little more worrying being the defensive lapses and high ball surrenders.
Choc's injury. Let's hope it's only a burner.
Footy's a funny game. We've lost to Parra and Gold Coast yet chalked up superb wins over the Dogs and Broncos, this one a truly fantastic effort to continue our amazing Suncorp run and post 2 critical pre origin points. Toov's and all the boys take a bow.