By Adam Lucius
What: Shute Shield round 18
Who: Northern Suburbs v Manly
Where: North Sydney Oval
Result: Norths 24-23
Manly finished where on the table: Seventh (58 points)
80 minutes in 80 seconds: There were a few if, what’s and buts heading into the final round of the most tightly contested Shute Shield in years, but Manly’s task was straight forward. They had to beat in-form Norths on their home patch and/or pray there was a minor miracle elsewhere. The Marlins found themselves in a deep hole early, conceding a try from the kick off and falling behind 14-0 after 21 minutes. Sam Lane posted Manly’s first points via a penalty goal in the 23rd minute. Norths added a penalty soon after before Lane crossed five minutes before the break to give us a halftime scoreline of 17-10. Manly then scored the next 13 points via tries to Richard Hooper and Nick Holton and a Lane penalty goal. At 23-17 with 11 minutes to go, it was fasten your seat belts time. Norths took up squatters’ rights in the Manly quarter in the closing stages but were repelled time and time again. With the siren having sounded, they just kept coming. The Marlins held on for at least three dozen phases before finally cracking FOUR minutes after the bell. The Shoremen needed to land the conversion from wide out to complete the heart break and duly did so. It’s the first time in six years Manly won’t be part of the play offs.
Where it was lost: The Marlins showed a ton of heart to work their way back into the contest but the sluggish start didn’t help their cause. They were brave, courageous and committed throughout an absorbing contest and had a few decisions go against them at the death that could have dramatically changed the ending. But the boys will look back at lost opportunities throughout the season, which finished with 11 wins and seven losses. It’s the first time in six years the Marlins won’t be part of the finals. And that will hurt until we get back into it in March.
Marlins' best: Every single player played their guts out but special mention must me made of halfback Matt Lucas. He told Manly officials he wanted to play, flying back into Sydney with the Waratahs on Saturday morning and turning in a typically whole-hearted performance just hours later.
What they said: “The effort was there but they were just too good on the day. We’ve been our own worst enemy this year. We lost games we were more than capable of winning. There is no-one else to blame.” – Matt Lucas
Halback, Matt Lucas, fights all the way - photo by Adam MacDonald
Oddspot: A lot of things need to go your way for a season to be successful and luck sure was in short supply over the past couple of weeks. Every result from other critical games went against Manly as the Shute Shield form book was continually turned on its head. It’s just been one of those seasons for the Marlins
Where to from here: Get out and support the seconds and thirds in their finals campaign. As for the Shute Shield, we’ve got an eight-month wait for redemption