Footy on a perfect sunny Brookie Sunday afto. Is there anything better? Actually yes, a 40 point win would be very nice too.
If the warm up is anything to go by (and I've always believed it is) we looked armed and dangerous. The ground seemed to shake as T Rex went through his paces, and the rest of our pack looked on in a mixture of awe and delight to have the gentle giant back at Brookie. Today was the day we needed to put away the opposition and post a good score and we looked like we wanted it.
Just 3 mins in and we started the ball rolling with Foran weighting a perfect kick to the right hand Arko corner. Lyon leapt in perfect timing to tap the ball back for Wolfman to fall on the crumbs. 6-0 and a great start.
Parra were looking rattled already with their normally calm hero Hindmarsh unwittingly lighting Matai's fuse when he blew up over his ailing shoulder being tampered with. There's plenty of niggly dirty players out there but I don't think Hindy is one of them, but nonetheless whatever happened enraged Matai to the point where Kingy had to shield him from igniting a much bigger problem.
But back to the footy cos we'd come to play sending waves of attack deep into Parra territory with charging hit ups and sweeping ball movement. Kite was not about to let his 250th game go quietly, and in the 14th minute he charged the line before shooting back an inspired offload to DCE, who in turn set our attack down the right through the hands of Harrison, Brett, Lyon and out to Wolfman to notch up try no 2 in the Arko corner. The conversion swung left but 10-0 was looking like just the entree.
Just 7 minutes later Kitey was at it again with another great offload sending Taufua away down the left hand hill side before lining up Brett inside to send him screaming through the gate. Those magnificent Brett Stewart afterburners ignited for a 43 metre run to the posts. 22 minutes and 16-0 with the Parra defence in more trouble than a hot chip on Manly beach. These Sea Eagles were devouring everything in their path and it was pretty to watch. The sight of Hindmarsh retreating to the bench looking like a mentally shattered captain was an odd one. Was he injured or just fed up?
This was fast turning into a try scoring picnic. Another attacking raid saw DCE expertly guide Brett into a hole and send him on a scorching run to the Arko corner, seemingly able to easily score himself, but instead unselfishly turning the ball back inside for Wolfman to bring up his hat trick. 28 minutes in and 22-0. The Eels were being cut to ribbons and it was just as well Sterlo was being kept busy in his debut Ch 9 call (standing in for the London bound Ray Warren) instead of having time to lament on the mounting toll. This was Manly on fire and Gus chipped in that at full strength they're still the no 1 team in the comp. Loved hearing that.
The shattered Eels kicked off yet again but Justin Poore had a head start so big he may as well have been sitting on the scoreboard hill. No ref could have missed that penalty and just minutes later we were off again. We were just terrorising them every time we got the ball, and this time it was T Rex who sent Matai away before turning the ball back to Taufai who in turn sent a flying DCE on a 33 metre unanswered sprint to the line. Not content with placing the ball near the posts DCE nearly ran into the Fulton-Menzies grandstand touching down inches inside the deadfall line to ensure Jamie could poke over the conversion from right in front.
Minutes later DCE was at it again. Just 15 metres out and with seemingly nothing much doing, he fired a bullet cut out pass to Wolfie to hand the howling winger an extraordinary 4 right corner tries in just 40 minutes.
Wow. Were Parra simply that awful or were we just white hot brilliant? There's always two ways to look at these things (hey just ask the fuming Ray Hadley) but for mine this was the near full strength awesome Manly machine we all know exists. 40 minutes of untouchable attack to set up an incredible 34-0 scoreline matched with bruising take no prisoner defence. Where would this end up? 50? 60? 70? And what of Wolfman could this be a record breaking try haul? The prospect was mouth watering.
Just 5 minutes was all it took to continue the annihilation (or so we thought) when Foran expertly prized another hole to send Brett on a searing run to the line. As he raced away to score his 2nd try and the teams 7th for the day we were all thinking the same thing. This is going to be huge.
But as quickly as Brett raced over something equally unexpected happened. Was that really Brett pulling up looking ever so slightly lame, walking gingerly back upfield to the rapturous Brookie applause? Sadly it was, and it only took a few seconds more to decide it was time to get him straight up the tunnel and presumably straight onto an ice pack. Hopefully only a hammy twinge but enough to make us all grimace.
Just like that our brilliant fullback was gone, Taufua also succumbed to a (hopefully minor) leg injury, and Joe G limped off with a cork. Our bench suddenly resembled the bandage bear club with Mr Versatlity Buhrer forced to come on as left winger and Matai now the emergency fullback.
Parra's stand in fullback Mullany scored in the 52nd minute to get them on the board at 40-6, and it seems incredible to be saying this, but with that the match took a bizarre turn right there and then. As Gould commented it was almost like Parra's determination to come out in the 2nd half trying as hard as they could was an irritating annoyance to us, instead of obediently rolling over and handing us a points avalanche.
I could go into detail about the remainder of the match but it's hardly worth discussing given we completely shut up shop, ultimately gifting them a ridiculous tally of 24 points on the back of 4 soft tries and matching Luke Burt letter perfect conversions.
The big question of course is why? Sure any team can turn down the jet engines after roaring to 40-0, and there's always the theories of conserving yourself for the next game, watching the clock, or of course in this case dealing with injuries and a reconfigured team. But above any of that was it just me or did it seem 90% mental? Brett's departure seemed to send a signal of "gees no Glenn, no Brett, please can't we just go home now?" And it wasn't just the players watching the clock, the whole ground was wishing the minutes would fly by as fast as possible.
The ABC asked Toovs if it was a glass half full or half empty result? Pretty good question really, but like Toovs I'll take the 40 point glass half full, and of course another vital 2 points on the table.
In the end an unusual afternoon and the ultimate game of two halves.
Player ratings: (at least for the first 50 minutes, let's try and forget the last 30)
Brett Stewart: At his lightning best until pulling up with a hammy tweak just as he scored yet another Brookie try. Let's pray it's only minor.
Jorge Taufau: Broke the line at will and unlucky to not be rewarded with a try of his own. Like Brett also succumbed to a 2nd half injury.
Jamie Lyon: Another faultless team performance.
Steve Matai: Just for a moment we all feared another Stevie brain snap at the hands of who would think Hindy. Luckily all ok though and a very safe fullback stint in the 2nd half to boot.
David Williams: 40 minutes of howling 4 try fun followed by 40 minutes of barely seeing the ball. Congrats Dave 4 tries a great return on any day just a pity it wasn't so easily more.
Keiran Foran: Solid as a rock and never put a foot wrong.
Daly Cherry-Evans: A first half terror with every touch of the ball. But then again that goes for the whole team.
Daniel Harrison: Solid honest game with some nice touches.
Tony Williams: Ultimately didn't get a lot of quality ball but when he did pretty much unstoppable and almost a guaranteed offload every time. Gees we're gonna miss him.
Anthony Watmough: Ran hard, tackled hard but needs a week off.
Jason King: Solid co captains knock.
Matt Ballin: The usual 40 tackles and so good to see he's re signed for another 3 years.
Brent Kite: Man of the match with a brilliant 250th barnstorming, offloading, ball playing great game
Jamie Buhrer: Ok so he's not a winger, but Jamie when running down the sideline and the defence converges head infield! Not the day he would have expected but you get that being Mr Versatility.
Joe Guluvao: Came back from a hasty cork and worked hard as usual.
Darcy Lussick: Solid but like to see some more damaging hit ups especially when only out there for 30 odd minutes (and that's the same thing I wrote last time).
George Rose: Some great gut busting (sorry can't resist) hit ups that brought the big crowd to their feet and the Eels to their knees.
That sensational first half and 34-0 demolition.
That awful last 35 minutes and cue in rack 24 points conceded.
The mere thought of anymore injuries to sour an otherwise excellent day (ok first half). Let's hope Brett, Jorge and all the boys pull up ok.
Ultimately any time you score 40 points and win that comfortably it's a great day, but conceding those 24 points was a strangely flat way to end it. What the hell, it's another 2 points and we're marching towards that much needed top 4 spot. Bring on the Bennett boys.