Souths gone, Students next

By Adam Lucius

Back at the start of the 2011 season, Manly coach Tim Lane was asked how long he expected it to take before his new-look side fully gelled.

"Round 16," came the instant reply.

At the time the comment raised a few eyebrows as it appeared a rather conservative view.

But Lane quite clearly knew what he was talking about.

Manly are undefeated since - you guessed it - round 16.

They have won five in a row to sit second on the table with two rounds remaining.

The impressive 31-12 win over Southern Districts at Manly Oval on Saturday guarantees the Marlins will finish the regular season either second or third.

It all comes down to next Saturday's clash against third-placed Uni.

Win that and Manly will finish second and get the first week of the finals off.

"We needed to go into Uni with a strong performance under our belt and we did that," breakaway Michael Hooper said after the four tries to two victory over Souths.

"It was a nervous win - we were down at half-time - but we got some good phases going and played for the whole 80.

"We're playing some our best football at the right time of the year."  

Lock Ed Gower got the Marlins going in the right direction after 10 minutes, wrestling his way over the line.

Ben Seymour's penalty on 21 minutes made it 10-0 before two soft Souths try prior to the break handed the Rebels an unexpected 12-10 half-time lead.

It was the wake-up call the home side needed.

They dominated the second half, with three tries between the Hooper brothers sealing a tremendous win.   

The final five-pointer - and the ensuing bonus point - came a good minute or so after the fulltime bell following some terrific work from loose head prop Dane Maraki.

Showing great skills for a big man, the Kiwi intercepted a pass on halfway, batting the ball up in the air and regaining before taking off downfield.

Cornered by the cover, Maraki cleverly kicked infield for his chasers.

The Marlins claimed the ball and from the breakdown the ball went wide for Seymour to send a long cut-out pass, allowing winger Richard Hooper to score with an elaborate swan dive.

It brought the house down among the Village Green faithful.

"They were pretty tough but structurally it was our best game of the season," skipper Chris Cottee declared.

"Everyone had a simple job and that was to go forward with aggression.

"I think everyone did that well."

Lane added: "There was a lot of talk about next week but we had to get through Souths first and we did it in good style.

"We've just got to keep working away at a few little things.

"Defensively we were very good."

The only negative was a shoulder injury to towering centre Peter Gilmore.

On the plus side, the Marlins should get a host of Super Rugby players back for the trip to Uni Oval.

The Students may be without five players - Berrick Barnes, Nick Phibbs, Ben McCutcheon, Dave Dennis and Dean Mumm - after they were all named in the Australian Barbarians team to meet Canada on the Gold Coast Friday night.