Arch rivals Manly Warringah Sea Eagles and the Melbourne Storm clash again at Lottoland on Saturday Night.
It’s been a season of turmoil on and off the field for the Sea Eagles, however, an 18-10 upset win away to Penrith before the bye has Trent Barrett’s men feeling confident of a strong finish to the season. While Manly are surely out of finals contention on just 12 points, 10 behind the top 8, they at least have the talent to be a real nuisance to finals-bound teams.
Meanwhile, the Melbourne Storm are building nicely. Craig Bellamy’s side will admit they have been below their best for much of the season but they are still in 3rd position and posted a remarkable 50-32 win over St. George-Illawarra last round without their origin stars. The retirement of Cameron Smith from State of Origin may have been Queensland’s loss but it’s been the Storm’s gain, with Smith as brilliant and scheming as ever in the hooking role and 100% focused on Melbourne’s title defence.
2018 - Sea Eagles def Storm 24-4 at AAMI Park
2017 - Storm def Sea Eagles 40-6 at AAMI Park
2017 - Storm def Sea Eagles 30-26 at Lottoland
2016 - Storm def Sea Eagles 38-18 at Lottoland
2015 - Sea Eagles def Storm 12-10 at AAMI Park
The Manly and Melbourne rivalry has remained strong since the 2007 & 2008 Grand Finals, when Storm won 34-8 in ’07 and the Sea Eagles gained revenge winning by a record score of 40-0 the following year.
The Round 11 clash this year demonstrated how intense the Storm and Sea Eagles rivalry still is. Manly defeated a Melbourne side missing captain Cameron Smith by 24-4. Storm centre Curtis Scott was sent off for throwing punches that left Manly five eighth Dylan Walker with a badly swollen eye. The Manly faithful will surely give Scott a frosty reception on Saturday Night.
|Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles||Melbourne Storm|
|1||Tom Trbojevic||Billy Slater|
|2||Matthew Wright||Suliasi Vunivalu|
|3||Moses Suli||Will Chambers|
|4||Brian Kelly||Curtis Scott|
|5||Brad Parker||Josh Addo-Carr|
|6||Dylan Walker||Cameron Munster|
|7||Daly Cherry-Evans||Jahrome Hughes|
|8||Addin Fonua-Blake||Jesse Bromwich|
|9||Manase Fainu||Cameron Smith|
|10||Martin Taupau||Nelson Asofa-Solomona|
|11||Joel Thompson||Felise Kaufusi|
|12||Shaun Lane||Ryan Hoffman|
|13||Jake Trbojevic||Kenny Bromwich|
|14||Trent Hodkinson||Brandon Smith|
|15||Kelepi Tanginoa||Tim Glasby|
|16||Frank Winterstein||Christian Welch|
|17||Taniela Paseka||Joe Stimson|
|18||Jorge Taufua||Cheyse Blair|
|19||Tom Wright||Tui Kamikamica|
|20||Tevita Funa||Young Tonumaipea|
|21||Toafofoa Sipley||Ryley Jacks|
For the Sea Eagles have named an unchanged 17 from their shock win over Penrith with Daly Cherry Evans, Tom Trbojevic and Jake Trbojevic all listed to back up from State of Origin. The NRL has approved the naming of hooker Manase Fainu, despite police charges hanging over him.
Origin stars Billy Slater, Will Chambers, Josh Addo-Carr, Cameron Munster, Felise Kaufusi and Tim Glasby have all been named for the Storm. The return of prop Jesse Bromwich from a hamstring injury sees Christian Welch drop to the bench, while Jahrome Hughes moves to halfback.
The facts that matter
Despite their upset win over Penrith two weeks ago, Manly are surely well out of finals contention with just 5 wins and 11 losses to their name in 2018.
Off field dramas and poor performances have spoilt what could have been a promising season after finishing 6th last year.
However, there have been strong individual performances over the course of the season, with the form of their starting props, in particular, standing out.
Props Addin Fonua Blake and Martin Taupau have been outstanding. Both players are in the NRL’s top 5 for post contact metres with 878 and 868 metres respectively and Taupau tops the competition’s offloads with 54.
In the backline, fullback Tom Trbojevic will be keen to show he’s an even better player after playing for New South Wales and should be primed for a big game against Billy Slater.
After an uninspiring start to the season, the reigning NRL premiers have won 5 games in a row to move to third position on the ladder.
The depth of Craig Bellamy’s squad was highlighted in their big win over the Dragons and they will only be stronger with all their Origin players back.
Cameron Smith has continued to orchestrate Storm victories and he will welcome the return of Queensland five-eighth Cameron Munster as Melbourne aim to for another top-four finish.
Speedster Josh Addo-Carr has scored 14 tries this season and along with fellow winger Suliasi Vunivalu, they both pose dangers to Manly’s inexperienced outside backs.
If Manly’s starting props are menacing, so too are Melbourne’s duo of Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona so it shapes as a fearsome forward clash in the early stages on Saturday Night.
Melbourne’s Achilles heel continues to be their ball control. The Storm have made the most handling errors this season with 78. If the men in purple can hold onto the ball they’ll fancy their chances at Lottoland and also be a genuine contender for another premiership.
As Manly have already displayed this season they are well and truly capable of lifting for the Storm and getting under their skin with an aggressive approach.
The Sea Eagles also owe their fans something to cheer about and hope for the future after a highly disappointing season.
However, the Storm are looking stronger in defence and a more confident unit in attack than when they lost to Manly in Round 11 and crucially Cameron Smith is playing this time.
It should be a torrid forward battle early but the Storm’s superior class will tell in the second half.
Melbourne by 8 points.
Will the Storm grab two vital points at Lottoland or could the Sea Eagles prove too strong at home on the northern beaches? Let us know in the comments below.