By Adam Lucius
What: Shute Shield round 15
Who: Penrith v Manly
Where: Nepean Rugby Park
Result: Manly 65-0
Manly are where on the table: Fifth (52 points)
80 minutes in 80 seconds: The mission here was simple: rug up, head west, collect five points and return home healthy. No offence to the gallant Emus – who keep turning up week after week with little or no support from head office – but the only uncertainty was over the final scoreline. Manly led 29-0 at halftime and kept the foot down to pile on a further 36 points after the resumption. Mission Accomplished. That's four wins in a row heading into this Saturday's local derby at Rat Park.
Where it was won: The tries were always going to come (11tries in all) but once again Manly's defence was rock solid. They've now conceded just 22 points in the last 240 minutes of rugby. Impressive stuff.
Marlins' best: Back from a stint in Scotland, utility back Shaun Treweek came off the bench to score three tries. Hooker Vance Elliott continued his good form with a double.
What they said: "The Rats game is one we always look forward to and we've been building nicely towards it. It should be a great game between two teams fighting to get in the finals." – assistant Manly coach Dan Brown
Oddspot: After a mid-season hiccup, the Marlins have won four straight to surge back into contention. But this is the tightest Shute Shield we've seen for years. Just eight points separate first from seventh so you can't afford a slip up
Where to from here: Do we really need to tell you? It's the second edition of the local derby for the year – all roads lead to Rat Park on Saturday. Bring it on.
By Adam Lucius
What: Shute Shield round 14
Who: Manly v Southern Districts
Where: Manly Oval
Result: Manly 16-15
Manly are where on the table: Fifth (47 points)
80 minutes in 80 seconds: With both teams playing their third game in a week, there would have been no surprise if fatigue kicked in early. But instead we were treated to a real 80-minute dogfight – well, 82 minutes to be exact – with plenty of intensity before finally finding a winner. Souths led 9-3 at the break courtesy of three penalties from superboot Rohan Saifoloi. He added another three-pointer early in the second half to take Souths' lead out to nine points. But Manly always manage to produce something special when running towards Sydney Rd (Bruce Stevo's stats may or may not back this up!) and so it was again at the 53rd minute mark. Josh Turner broke clear from 85m out and swerved, ducked, avoided and pushed off defenders on his way to the line. It was some try and gave Manly a way back into the game at 12-8. Souths eased a converted try in front a few minutes later via their fifth penalty but there were still a few chapters left in this story. A pushover try to Manly hooker Vance Elliott from a lineout just after the hour narrowed the gap to two but unfortunately the kick again went wide to leave the visitors ahead 15-13. That's the way it stayed until a late, late twist. With the bell having rung, Manly pounded the Souths line looking for the match winner. They were centimetres from the line but repelled countless times. Then we saw the ref's arm extended for a penalty right in front of the posts. Matt Lucas kicked the goal and the Marlins were home 16-15 in an absolute thriller.
Where it was won: Manly's defence was superb on Tuesday night and they backed that up against the Rebels. That laid the platform for the win, with the Marlins scoring two tries to nil. To keep top four sides Easts and Souths to just one try between them in 160 minutes is a tremendous effort in anyone's language
Marlins' best: Lucas was in everything as was returning second-rower Ed Gower, who punched out 80 quality minutes. Elliott and James Graham were also great value and Josh Turner produced moments of magic.
Lock Ed Gower on the rampage - photo Adam MacDonald
What they said: "Three wins in a week is an awesome result for us. The belief was always there, even at 9-3. We’ve been struggling coming into this week but we'll get a lot out of these wins. Wins like that can make a season. I've loved being back and I will get behind the boys for the rest of the season." – halfback Matt Lucas, who now returns to the Waratahs
"To knock off two quality sides (Easts and Souths) is awesome. If we don't pick up eight points our season could have been over. We're right back in it now." – Damien Cummins
Oddspot: With the crowd going a little quiet in the second half, Turtle reached for the walkie talkie and asked ground announcer Mike Westdorp to rev the Marlins faithful up. Westy turned evangelist for the last 20 minutes and the support helped get the home side across the line
Where to from here: It's out to Nepean to meet the Penrith Emus on Saturday
“I had made arrangements with my brother (Michael) to fly out for the final before the Scotland game (quarter final),” explained Richard. “I have never been so nervous until the ball sailed over for the final penalty!”
Richard flew over to the UK for four days to watch the final. “The atmosphere was amazing with such a rugby mad supporter base in the UK. Obviously the result wasn’t what we wanted but the tournament really put the Wallabies back on the map after a few difficult years. The celebrations were very upbeat and I had great time.”
Richard has played rugby locally since he was 10 and of course his father, Dave, was a Marlins 1st grade player back in the 80’s. He had one season in colts when the Marlins made the semi- final and then got a contract with his brother in the Brumbies academy.
The speedy winger is now approaching his 100th game in his 6th season for the Marlins. “I love playing at Manly Oval with a great bunch of guys. We have always had strong players and depth in the backs. It is good that players have gone on like Reece (Hodge), Alex Northam (Europe) and Mali Hingano (Europe and moving to Japan).”
“I hope I can continue to perform for the club and team,” said Richard.
Not only does he have the speed but also he has an elusive step that sees him either scoring or assisting with tries in most games. His defence is great and nothing depicts it more than this fantastic photo taken by Adam MacDonald on Tuesday evening vs Easts.
“It is fun to play Souths. They play a similar attacking style of footy,” said MMMs winger Richard Hooper.
Souths sit second on the table with 50 points and the MMMs back in 7th on 43. So still a tightly packed top order. They beat the MMMs in Round 1, 23-17, through a strong forwards performance.
This is an important game in the charge to the finals and the third game to be played in 8 days.
“The coaches understand this and we have reduced the workload,” said Richard. “Everyone came through uninjured from the Easts game which is good. Souths are in the same position as us having played on Tuesday night (27-8 win over West Harbour). They are a good team and consistent which is so important through the season, No doubt that they will be in contention in the finals series.”
A small crowd at the Village Green witnessed a fantastic game vs Easts on Tuesday night.
“The first 20 minutes we played well with the ball in hand,” said Richard who scored a brace of tries in that period. “The next 60 minutes was all about defence. We made around 170 tackles and managed to keep them out apart from a try late on.”
It was an awesome display of defence and an area where the MMMs needed to develop having lost a number of close games in the last 10 minutes. “It is about attitude and everyone from 1 to 15 turned up,” explained Richard.
“When we did get the ball we made uncharacteristic mistakes which allowed Easts to keep the pressure on. However, we did manage to frustrate them with our defence and the pressure told with some of their decision making.”
Lock Hayden Stringer had an outstanding game. He was spotted at Circular Quay where he works for Manly Fast Ferries in his Marlins jacket early on Wednesday morning. He explained that he fell asleep on his lounge and only just made the 615am ferry to get to work and didn’t have time to change. Hardly surprising after the effort he put in...and good promotion for the Marlins!