Canterbury host Manly at the ANZ Stadium as we enter the business end of the season with an encounter that pits a faltering attack against an anxious defence. The Bulldogs won’t be in finals action, having won just three of their last 14. They arrive at this round on the back of four consecutive losses with their last victory coming over the Knights in round 18 thanks to a late flurry. Manly aren’t in great form themselves, winning just two of their last six matches while they let a 14-point half time lead slip out of their hands last weekend.
Bulldogs fans have been disillusioned with their side for the majority of this season. Their clunky attack has been particularly hard to watch, having scored an average of just 12 points over their last seven games. The hosts may get more opportunities on Sunday however as Manly’s defence has left a lot to be desired recently. Last week saw the Tigers score 24 second half points against them with the Sea Eagles conceding just short of 26 on average in the last seven games.
Can Canterbury get themselves up for this game and put pressure on an unsure opposition or will Manly get their finals campaign back on track?
2017 – Rd 4 Manly 36 def. Canterbury 0 at Lottoland
2016 – Rd 23 Canterbury 20 def. Manly 16 at ANZ Stadium
2016 – Rd 1 Canterbury 28 def. Manly 6 at Lottoland
2015 – Rd 7 Canterbury 28 def. Manly 16 at ANZ Stadium
2015 – Rd 3 Canterbury 16 def. Manly 12 at ANZ Stadium
Manly’s thumping victory in round four ended a six-game losing streak against the Bulldogs in style. Canterbury had scraped two golden point victories during that run, once with a Josh Reynolds try late last season and in 2014 when Trent Hodkinson kicked a field goal to end the Sea Eagles’ season before that.
The 2017 encounter between the teams had little chance of reaching the golden point stage as Daly Cherry-Evans helped himself to five try assists in a convincing victory. Manly will be hoping for a similar confidence building victory in this one but the Dogs will be desperate to avenge that embarrassing loss and finish a disappointing year on a high.
|Will Hopoate||1||1||Tom Trbojevic|
|Brett Morris||2||2||Matthew Wright|
|Josh Morris||3||3||Dylan Walker|
|Brenko Lee||4||4||Bryan Kelly|
|Marcelo Montoya||5||5||Akuila Uate|
|Matt Frawley||6||6||Blake Green|
|Chase Stanley||7||7||Daly Cherry-Evans|
|Aiden Tolman||8||8||Brenton Lawrence|
|Moses Mbye||9||9||Apisai Koroisau|
|James Graham||10||10||Martin Taupau|
|Josh Jackson||11||11||Frank Winterstein|
|Adam Elliott||12||12||Shaun Lane|
|David Klemmer||13||13||Jake Trbojevic|
|Francis Tualau||14||14||Lewis Brown|
|Raymond Faitala-Mariner||15||15||Lloyd Perrett|
|Danny Fualalo||16||16||Darcy Lussick|
|Michael Lichaa||17||17||Addin Fonua-Blake|
|Andy Saunders||19||18||Jarrad Kennedy|
|Rhyse Martin||20||19||Cameron Cullen|
|Asipeli Fine||21||20||Jackson Hastings|
|Kerrod Holland||23||21||Jonathan Wright|
The Facts That Matter
To say the Dogs’ attack has been uninspiring would be an understatement. It’s great to see the injury-plagued Chase Stanley back on the field but the decision to move him into the halves would’ve had most rugby league fans scratching their heads. It’s difficult to see how he could be the key to turning their attack around. The most points they’ve scored in a game this season is 24 and with Manly averaging 23 per game in 2017, the stats provide no cause for optimism if you’re a Canterbury supporter. Stats don’t always matter however and if they can show more heart and determination, then they could put the increasingly uncertain Sea Eagles under more pressure.
The Dogs will be without the injured Reynolds and Sam Kasiano with Matt Frawley joining Stanley in the halves while Michael Lichaa and Francis Tualau take the vacant bench spots. Brenko Lee is still, by far, Canterbury’s most dangerous player in attack with 10 try assists. Will Hopoate is the closest to his tally with just five. With Brian Kelly coming back in to the Manly side after being rested and dropped to NSW last week, there will be an opportunity to test the youngster. Lee’s edge defence was exposed on several occasions by Souths last round so they will need to find the right balance between creating space at one end and shutting it down at the other.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
The Sea Eagles will be bitterly disappointed with their second half capitulation against the Tigers last week. A victory by 12 points or more would’ve seen them move into the top four and they looked certain to do exactly that at half time. They looked fairly comfortable but Akuila Uate’s two well-taken tries inflated the Sea Eagles’ position in the match. The rest is history as they say and now Manly find themselves in 7th, ahead of the Cowboys by just one differential point and only two competition points ahead of the Dragons. If last week was a must-win for them, then this one now holds even more importance to their finals push.
Api Koroisau continues to impress in attack, having terrorised the Tigers with a line break and two assists last time out. Errors and ill-discipline at key moments saw the momentum switch. Tom Trbojevic threw two intercepts and Marty Taupau gave away two penalties in the second half to create a roll on that the Sea Eagles couldn’t halt. They will need to show greater focus and resolve if they want to take the points on Sunday.
The only change to Manly’s line-up comes at left centre with Kelly replacing the injured Brad Parker. After their game against the Roosters, Trent Barrett stated that Kelly was left out because he needed a rest and was sent back to the NSW Cup last week to work on his game. He will be determined to get the better of Lee and nail down his position for the remainder of the season.
The Sea Eagles’ form in the last six weeks has been less than convincing but the Dogs have been considerably worse over a longer period, and its hard to see them causing an upset in this one. They rely heavily on Reynolds and Kasiano and without them it doesn’t look like they’ll be threatening enough to outscore the Sea Eagles, who despite their shaky defense are always capable of putting points on the board. Hopoate will be up for a big game with more responsibility falling on his shoulders against his former club but his opposing number, Trbojevic, will be looking to make up for some key errors last week. Manly by 14.
Do you think the Eagles can keep in touch with the top clubs or can the Bulldogs spring a surprise? Let us know in the comments below.
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