After the "diabolical" performance at Penrith the Brookie faithful awaited the return of Keiran Foran, and hopefully with it the return of Manly muscle. Could we finally put the Dragons to the sword?
Wow where do we start? For the 2nd week running Jason King was a late withdrawal, along with the frustrating suspension of Matai and the long term David and Tony Williams injuries. With the Penrith loss still stinging it was more than obvious our forwards would really have to stand up for the count against a brutally determined Saints pack.
The opening minutes set the tone with damaging hits and brutal defence. This was clearly going to be a very physical game. Attacking our line a baffled Watmough gave away a close range penalty, but the Brookie crowd were thrilled with the decision to just take the 2. Soward slotting it through for a 2-0 lead. Slight threat averted.
Our right side attack was in full force, the now potent DCE-Glenn/Brett Stewart-Lyon combination harassing the Dragons left side at every opportunity. Something had to give and in the 18th minute another ride side wave saw DCE connect with Brett who sent a lightning pass to Lyon opening up a mini hole. This is where the great footballers shine. With a split second to size up the situation and react, Lyon's genius football brain calculated the perfect play was a delicate grubber for stand in winger Oldfield, delivering it with surgeon like accuracy as Oldield nailed it to the turf for the try bringing the raucous hill to their feet. Just for good measure the sideline conversion was inch perfect popping over the bar for a 6-2 lead.
More brick wall defence made it tough for either team to prize a hole, and both missed out with in goal super close calls, a barnstorming Watmough unable to ground the ball which ever so slightly popped loose, and just before HT another Soward cross field bomb plucked by a leaping Vidot who was brilliantly held up in goal by desperate Manly hands and legs, notably the chief muscle coming from Mr 100% Keiran Foran.
The HT break was met with impressed applause, both teams gasping for air and eager for a breather. Toovs stayed in the box for a couple of minutes, notably having a solid briefing with his coaching team.
40 minutes to out muscle the Dragons was the half time order and we came out with intent. Wasting no time our ride side army swept back into attack mode with DCE delivering a wide pass to Glenn Stewart. Picking it up low Glenn surged across field keeping everyone guessing, brutal body strength contrasting with silky hands, shimming and showing to fool the Dragons into committing two defenders, simultaneously drawing the perfect pass to Lyon, who's uncanny football instinct delivered the split second on ball to gift Oldfield his 2nd try. The Arko corner was going off as Oldifeld grinned with delight. Jamie's conversion just shaded the right post to leave the delicate lead at 10-2.
More muscle from both sides ensued. Even bigger hits and even more brutal defence. You could just feel the Manly pack rising to the occasion, spurred on by the Manly chants, the vocal crowd willing the defence to propel Saints backwards. DCE was plunging his 5th tackle kicks as deep as he could, one in particular seeing Vidot attempt a return in field before an army of 5 sprung a Pittwater Rd Tsunami, Vidot powerless to stop the surge. The perennial whinger Hornby banging on an on to the refs only to be sent back in goal to sulk over the drop out.
The Manly muscle machine appeared to be winning the battle, but footy games have an incredible way of turning in a flash, and it was the galloping Brett Morris and his 11 foot legs that tore a massive hole through our spleen from nowhere, rioting downfield like a runaway gazelle before being oh so bravely halted by the impregnable arms of Brett Stewart. Has there been a better try saving fullback? But the run had broken our defensive artery, and with a scattered line Vidot plunged over 2 plays later for the 54th minute try.
Suddenly after all that work the match was as good as even with the score back to a gripping 10-8 lead. More barnstorming runs from Kite, Watmough, George and Lussick earning key metres. Each time we gained good territory the Dragons held their breath waiting for our ride side army to ignite, and each time the Dragons had their chance we simply waited for the Soward cross field kick lottery to be decided. Do they know any other way to score? Apparently not. A dangerous Soward cross fielder swinging up and over even the giant Vidot into touch much to the sheer relief of the begging hill.
The clock wore down and the bodies were batted. Foran looked like he'd gone 10 rounds, worse still Watmough yet again succumbed to the shoulder burner problem, and Mr Versatile Buhrer disappeared up the tunnel to get a back strain assessed. The young guns were standing up proudly, Harrison working his butt off, and Lussick showing the grit we've all been waiting for surging at the line with reckless abandon. The veteran Kite too showing his iron will battering the old rig with each hit up. These are the moments big George lives for and he took every opportunity to run the pie shop straight up the Dragons guts. Vintage stuff from the big man with one carry in particular an inspired momentum surger that lifted the whole pack to go with him.
But still Saints wouldn't go away and as the minutes ticked down we all dreaded that fatal possibility of a Soward death arrow. Surely not tonight in front of this crowd? Saints knew it was now or never and did everything to pin us deep to our try line. In one of the set of the game we went nowhere for two consecutive tackles, Saints surging themselves to force us into fatigued error. This is when the great players do something special, and our smallest man DCE decided he needed to be the one. Twice in the set he took the ball down the blind side ripping metres from the Saints battered hearts, and leaving an absolutely exhausted Foran to send the 5th tackle kick deep back into their territory. A monumentally telling play sinking Saints shoulders.
With the game on the line we did what we do best, Ballin showing and going before injecting our right side attack, DCE this time using Glenn as the decoy to bring in Brett to use that blistering speed and sleight of hand. Sweeping across field Brett signalled Lyon to step inside and the Saints defence all took a right foot step to plug the Lyon hole, but Brett had fooled everyone dummying to Lyon, before a delivering the split second perfect show and go ball to Oldfield, opening up the hole for the winger to calmy step infield and nail the Saints to the cross. A simply sensational football try engineered by some of the smartest football brains in the NRL. Jamie's conversion was critical to cement the win but this time it just drifted across the right face to leave the score at a precarious converted try gap.
But the game was ours and with just 3 on the clock Darcy Lussick decided enough was enough. With the silly pink boots firmly back in the locker room, the young gun fired the warning shot we've all been begging for, busting the line open with a fend for the ages, surging 18 glorious metres to the try line like a Northern Beaches missile, slamming his body between the converging Morris and Nightingale to plunge the ball into the Brookie turf.
A win for the ages. Manly 20 St. George 8. A very hard earnt and well deserved lap of honour followed, with Brett, DCE and the mercurial Ballin unable to contain their delight high fiving the fence fans all the way round. God's country the only placed to be on the first day of winter.
Brett Stewart: Superb flawless game, we're all missing him scoring but he virtually did setting up the match winning Oldfield hat trick try
Jorge Taufua: With the right side attacking blitz on the agenda not a huge amount of ball to the left, but did his job soundly
Dean Whare: Ditto Taufua, but also as solid as a rock
Jamie Lyon: Man of the match, nothing more to say, except Joey Johns adding he could do this for another 5 years
Michael Oldfield: The hat trick was all served on a plate to him, but you can't do anymore than convert those chances with mistake free efficiency, and that pace is great
Keiran Foran: Even a 1 and a half legged Keiran Foran is like Brookie gold
Daly Cherry-Evans: Superb game, controlled our attack like a 10 year veteran, 570 metres of kicks, and 24 tackles to boot. Stunning display
Glenn Stewart: Is their a better back rower in the game? Not likely. Fantastic muscle man performance
Anthony Watmough: Once again hampered by the injury, but never stopped him charging like the Brookvale tank that he is
Daniel Harrison: I like this guy more and more, worked hard and did his job perfectly
Joe Guluvao: Only 36 minutes, but all of them very important with some barnstorming runs
Matt Ballin: Mr Workaholic. Incredible effort, and just maybe took up the hints to be more dangerous in attack. Love you Matty please don't go
Brent Kite: Battered the Saints line all night making 104 important metres
Jamie Buhrer: Just 22 minutes due to a back injury, hopefully he's ok in 2 weeks
Darcy Lussick: Easily his best game, the hype finally comes of age, 166 massive metres, 15 crunching tackles, and a try to savour for many a year
George Rose: Threw the shop at the defence delivering massive inspiration to our entire pack
Vic Mauro: Only there for the last 15 minutes, but very important fresh legs when needed
The attitude reversal. We wanted this badly and we thoroughly deserved it. Awesome brick wall defence and inspired attack. Plus we will only get WAY better when Keiran is fully fit and we get back the huge bonuses of King, Matai and Williams x 2.
The crowd, very disappointing to not be at least 15-16,000 for a game that sure deserved it. Where was everyone?
Those ugly losses to Parramatta, Gold Coast and Penrith are such a pity. We could be and should be top 3, but hey it's a long season.
A week is a very long time in footy, but just 5 days after our worst loss we delivered our best win. Hats off to the entire team and of course Toovs. A simply tremendous effort.