They say it's not so much how you react to wins but how you bounce back after disappointing losses. Facing the Roosters in our 2nd backyard at the SFS was the perfect opportunity to show we meant business.
The mere sight of T Rex was enough to make any opposition flinch, and that was just in the warm up. We looked hungry for success and opened the game with some big hit ups to set the scene. Like a giant excited labrador T Rex was out to play, knocking over all the kids in the back yard, only to stand there and wonder what to do next. Just 4 minutes in and he sent Mitchell Pearce flying backwards before almost apologetically offloading to our left side attack, and showing his hands are as good as his speed Brett shot a perfect bullet pass straight out to Taufua to send him over in the left corner. Look out the gentle giant is back.
Just 5 mins later and the vegemite jar refs gifted us a pretty soft penalty after a lazy Warea-Hargreaves slap on Watmough, and ignoring the easy 2 points Ballin made them really pay with an inch perfect grubber to shot gun Choc into the in goal to score before you could blink. With my sports ears on the blink (must remember those spare batteries) I was forced to endure the only radio call, with the ABC's David Morrow and Warren Ryan grumbling and bumbling along like two old grandfathers driving the commodore at 40km/h in the wrong lane blissfully unaware of the traffic stacked up behind them. Convinced Choc was "a mile offside", the old timers just couldn't let it go banging on and on like the broken 33 inch record they are. Watching the 9 replay this morning I note Sterlo and Gus didn't even mention offside, least of all have any concerns. (Note to ABC management, sure the budget's tight but you've gotta have a couple of commentators in the shadows who at the very least can get the players names right most of the time, the tap on the shoulder for the old boys is embarrassingly overdue).
Back to the action and more enterprising attack saw the Roosters back peddling. The giant labroador T Rex decided that it wasn't fair to push everyone over all day, so he nonchalantly put in a chip kick any halfback would be proud of, aiming dead accurately at a Roosters horror hole. You just knew the bounce would be wicked, and the ever present Matai plucked the prize to tear away from desperately flailing arms and race 30 metres untouched under the posts. 18-0 just like that. Anasta tried to rally his trips but you couldn't help thinking we could put on 50 in this mood.
It only took another 7 minutes for the roasting to continue. Choc was clearly on a run hard and straight down the corridor mission, and taking the ball on the half way line he carved the Roosters apart with a searing run, feigning to draw Minichello and go left to put away Foran and Brett, but instead cleverly timing his draw and pass right to DCE, who bolted away like a beaming Jack Russell to race over beside the posts and cement an incredibly impressive 24-0 lead. Jamie must have started considering a few left foot conversions just for fun.
The Roosters tried to be aggressive and some of their big boppers hit the line hard, but their biggest weapon, Jared "I just wanna fight" Waerea-Hargreaves couldn't convince anyone much, especially a bemused Kite and King taking great delight in letting him know who the premiers are. (Note to Waerea-Hargreaves, there's little point in being a big scary brute if the footy isn't in your hands).
Finally the Roosters got some valuable territory, and after pulling off a sure finalst for bombed try of the year, they finally got the Dogs kennel bound Perrett over in the corner. Half time and 24-6 was a tasty entree.
The first ten minutes of any second half are key, and none more so than in this match. If the Roosters could get some vital early possession and find a try or two they might just keep the game alive, and they did exactly that scoring in the 41st (from a pretty flukey chip kick) and again in the 52nd when the scarily huge and talented Moga dived over in the left corner.
The Roosters were sure coming at us hard, and a few of their big men including the scarilty talented Moga were rupturing giant holes. But luck wasn't on the Roosters side with Anasta twice finding the upright with his conversions. 24-14 was a hell of lot different to 24-18 and it woke us up to get on with the job.
Speaking of luck the match turned when a mid field bomb saw the excited labrador T Rex arrive way too earlier and rattle the Roosters into a kick on, the replay showing he was metres off side, but the on field refs missed it and the video ref must have gone to borrow the ABC thermos. With a scrum set and a Manly feed you could smell Brett out in the back line orchestrating a back line move, and right on cue he put on a beautiful in and away to beat the Roosters with sheer blinding pace and put away Whare in the corner for 28-18. Jamie's conversion drifted short and right but the damage was done.
The match had turned right there and you could see the instant change in body language. The Roosters shoulders slumped while the Manly shoulders rose as one, determined to re ignite the first half onslaught and resume the points scoring blitz. Just one set of 6 was all it took to tear downfield, and Matai showed he too has a deft boot with a neat grubber into the in goal with an absolutely wicked leg break fooling a hapless Minichello who could only stand and watch Brett swoop like a Sea Eagle on a juicy hot chip. Suddenly it was 34-18 and you knew we weren't finished.
Another 4 minutes was all it took for DCE to thread the needle and send action man Buhrer bolting into the in goal to touch down for try number 7. More conversion practice for Lyon and the Roosters looked in shock at seeing 40 against their name. Was the earlier predicted 50 possible? In this mood it was almost a sure thing.
DCE took a cork and retired to the bench for some immediate treatment, not that grandpa Morrow noticed, he was still calling DCE's name long after he'd applied the ice pack on the bench. Pass him another scotch finger Warren.
The Roosters by now were playing some Harlem Globe Trotters basketball, but that rarely comes off when you're down and out. Attacking in their own half it all came undone when Jamie Lyon, the man who reads a football game as well as the very best in the game, saw the intercept pass before any of us could think of it, plucking out the Roosters hearts to race away and score untouched. 46-14 and more to come.
With 2 minutes of fun left on the clock, Foran decided he wanted a turn at a chip kick, delivering one tantalisingly over the half way line, with not even a right angled bouncing ball eluding the silky skilled hands of Brett Stewart, who in turn delivered a quick thinking pass to a flying Ballin (36 tackles and 80 minutes non stop work not enough to see Matty take a rest). With the defence converging Ballin delivered an equally fast thinking kick to the in goal with the never gives up Jamie Lyon outwitting the much taller Moga to plant the ball down and bring up the 50 points.
Fulltime and a 52-14 scoreline that Toov's would have to be beaming about. As Choc announced this could well be the end to the ugly close wins. If Stevie's flowing locks are any indication, it's going to be fun to watch.
Brett Stewart: Safe as houses at the back, barked defensive instructions all day, and unleashed his pace to score and set up a couple of key tries
Dean Whare: Solid as a rock and showed how much he'll be missed next year
Jamie Lyon: Yet another perfect game, enthusiasm personified, first to the ball on so many occasions, 2 tries and 9 goals for a massive haul of 24 points
Steve Matai: How good was it to see him out there, hair flying and all, total non stop energy in both attack and defence
Jorge Taufua: Getting better with every game with some great hit ups
Keiran Foran: Solid as a rock and you sense still only 80% fit, what a treat we're in for when he's back to 100
Daly Cherry-Evans: Took the heavy Roosters traffic directed at him and came out well on top.
Tony Williams: Look out world T Rex is out of the cage and ready to trample over anything in his path, Tony please don't leave us!
Anthony Watmough: If the brief was to cut the sideways running and smash it straight up the middle it was carried out to perfection
Daniel Harrison: Like to see him back himself more with the ball, but steadily climbing with every game
Jason King: The old boys (Kingy and Kite) showed the angry boys (Warea-Hargreaves and Kennedy) who's boss
Matt Ballin: Mr Workaholic yet again another 36 tackles, many of them critical giant Roosters stoppers
Brent Kite: See Kingy
Jamie Buhrer: Love his enthusiasm, never stops working, like Harrison be good to back himself just that bit more with the ball there's some line breaks waiting in there
Joe Guluvao: Only a 22 minute cameo, but the perfect example of no frills tough as nails bench experience
Darcy Lussick: Solid but like to see some more damaging hit ups especially when only out there for 30 odd minutes
George Rose: Couple of mistakes but only due to the enthusiasm of throwing the pie shop at the giant Roosters and backing up well after a big game against Melb
Finally showing we can win really put a team away. 52 very entertaining points was not only fun to watch but a very timely boost to the for and against.
A late cork to DCE but didn't seem to much to worry about, especially with 2 weeks to recover.
Having to go back to work today. Nah might take an extra day off and watch the replay.
A very tasty 4 point win with the bye next week. Great to see the boys unleash some big points, and there'll be plenty more once we get everyone back. Can't wait for a Sunday afto Brookie picnic of smoked Eel in 2 weeks time.