Kotoni kills off Shoremen

By Adam Lucius

Manly players have made a pact to extend their winning run all the way to the end of the regular season to ensure they secure a break in the first week of the finals.

After seeing off Northern Suburbs 34-29 in a see-sawing affair at North Sydney Oval on Saturday, the second-placed Marlins immediately turned their attention to a critical three-week period in which they will play three teams either in the top six or just outside.

They host seventh-placed Southern Districts next Saturday before taking on Sydney Uni (third) and Randwick (fifth).

Manly are two points ahead of the Students, with the August 28 clash at Uni Oval shaping as the pivotal match.

If the Marlins finish in the top two they will go straight through to week two of the play-offs and the grand final qualifier.       

"We've spoken a lot about staying in that top two so we get the week off in the first week of the finals," breakaway Kotoni Ale said minutes after his man-of-the-match performance against Norths.

"The run home is not easy but the good thing is it's all in our hands.

"If we win them all then we stay second.

"That's why (Norths) was an important win. It was a good effort from all the boys."

The lead changed hands four times in an entertaining match at North Sydney Oval but in the end the better side came out on top.

Manly scored five tries to two and overcame a heavy 12-4 penalty count against them en route to their fourth straight win.

They led 14-0 early before handing Norths points and finding themselves down 20-19 at the break.

The Shoremen extended their advantage with a penalty goal just after the interval before Ale stepped up to centre stage.

He scored on 53 minutes and just moments later turned acrobat to break clear down the right and dance away from the sideline before passing inside for Jacob Woodhouse to score.

Manly stayed in front for the rest of the game despite two more Norths penalties eating away at their' advantage.

Woodhouse (2), Ale, James Hilterbrand and Ben Seymour were the try scorers.

"We're down on troops at the moment so every win we get in this period is invaluable," Manly coach Tim Lane said.

"We gifted them points through two soft tries but overall it was a very good performance.

"Kotoni was outstanding and so was 'Cecil' (James Hilterbrand) at tight head. All the forwards were very good."

Looking ahead at the tough run home, Lane continued: "We have got ourselves in a good position and the ball is now in our court.

"We've got eight guys away or unavailable but we will slowly start to get a few of them back over the next couple of weeks.

"The Uni game looms as the big one but we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves."