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
Weird mystical forces have aligned all the grade teams in 6th spot on their respective tables. All the teams are threatened by the 7th position team winning tomorrow. Destiny is in the players hands. It is knock out football from now on. Either win, rely on other results or boots off.
“The whole club knows it is a massive weekend,” said MMMs half back Tim Donlan. “We had the whole playing group together for a talk on Tuesday. Everyone is motivated to get through to the finals. This is what we do all of the hard work for.
“We have trained well this week,” he continued about first grade. “It’s all been about clarity. Where we should be and what we should do in different parts of the field under different scenarios.
“We wanted to become the best defensive team and when we had the three games in 8 days, it worked really. Our defence fell apart a bit against the Rats but, taking nothing away from them, they were awesome on the day and any team would have found them hard to beat.
“We got back on track in all grades against Gordon. We now want to push for the finals and we know we are capable of getting to the Grand Finals.
The MMMs are putting out a heavy pack including a barnstorming backrow: Harry Bergelin at 7, Hayden Stringer, blind side and Junior Palau at 8.
“Yeah, we want to take Norths on upfront. It is great for my position to be behind a pack going forward. We need show aggression against Norths.”
Tim was injured in Round 10 against Easts. “I damaged my ankle and thought I was out for 8 to 10 weeks. I am so happy that I managed to get back after six weeks. It was hard work and credit to Ali (Alison Donlan, club physio).”
Tim played his school boy rugby at St Ignatius including a 5 test stint in the Australian School Boys team. He travelled to Samoa and New Zealand, with the team losing to the kiwis on the bell. Tim was awarded the Bronze Boot for being the most constructive player.
He then moved onto Grade Rugby at the Rats playing colts and then 1st grade. He was injured in 2013 and moved to Randwick where he had a frustrating season. He then came and joined the MMMs in 2015, securing a 1st grade spot before Matt Lucas’ return.
He is a competitive half back, quick thinking and with good pace and pass. No doubt his objective is to be in the Grand Final 2016!
This is the last home game of the regular season and so let’s get a big crowd behind the Marlins as they fight to stay in contention for a finals birth. Also be there to support the Girls U14 7s team playing before the 1st grade game.
“We were disappointed with our performance last week,” said first grade assistant coach, Dan Brown. “We want to make it up the supporters and show what we can do.”
Lying 6th on the table, one point below the Rats, one point above Eastwood and two points above Easts, the Marlins need to win the last two games to be assured of a top six finish including a tough gig away against 3rd placed Norths next weekend.
The games that are important for the Marlins this weekend are: Eastwood vs Randwick and the Rats vs Easts. Next week: Easts vs Souths and Randwick vs the Rats.
There is no doubt that the Rats have a hard run home but based on last week’s strong win over the Marlins, they are looking good.
It is a bit gutting to say this the Rats really dominated last weekend and put on a great attacking display winning 41-17 (6 tries to 2) in front of large crowd at Rat Park. They ran everything back at the Marlins with gusto and made some critical line breaks. It seemed that every time the Marlins worked their way into the Rats 22, an error would, under strong defensive pressure from the Rats, send us back up the wrong end.
“At 7 all we looked to be in a good position but the Rats took two chances off our mistakes and scored length of field tries,” said Dan. “Suddenly the game is 17-7 and the momentum has swung against us. They are a good team. There was nothing major that we did wrong but we know we can play better than that.”
Having significantly improved our defence is recent weeks, somehow it unravelled in broken play.
“This week we are putting out a heavier pack,” continued Dan. Cecil Hilterbrand in at hooker, Kotone Ale in at 7 and Adrian Hall back from injury in the 2nd row. It is good to get players back at this critical stage of the season.
“We’ve been focused on us and getting things right. It’s little things that we are working on,” explained Dan. “If we get it right, we will play well and win. But we don’t underestimate anyone in the comp. Look at Wests beating Uni twice. I don’t remember such a tight comp, with any team on the day able to win.”
Final call for the Masquerade Ball and Presentation night – tickets here