With only 10 points separating the top 8 teams both the Marlins and the Rats need a win to stay in contention for a top 6 finals finish.
It is unusual for it to be so tight and to see last year’s Grand Final winners, Eastwood lying 8th. The Woodies should dispose of Penrith but there are some huge games including Uni vs Easts and Souths vs Randwick (top of the table clash).
After four wins from four, the MMMs are on the up but the Rats will also take confidence from a 41 all draw with Uni last weekend.
“They have good backs that can attack from anywhere and so we must shut down everything they throw at us,” said MMMs 5/8th Sam Lane. The Rats came back to win in the same fixture last year when the MMMs were over 20 points ahead.
Sam will be up against Rodney Iona, an ex Brumbies player, with Hamish Angus, captain and playmaker, out through injury. Former Brumbies player, Julian Huxley, will also be on the Rats bench.
The MMMs have only let three tries in over the last four games with BIG D improving dramatically. Holding out Souths for a 16-15 (no tries to Souths) was a monumental example.
“We are really proud of our defence. We know that we can all tackle well across team individually but we probably didn’t have our structures right,” explained Sam. “Over the last month or so we have gone back to basics. Who should be where, when? And how we work together.
“Basically out attack has been pretty good and we have shown that we can score from anywhere.”
James Graham has been playing open side for the last few games whilst Kotoni Ale has been easing back in after his year out with injury. Kotoni will be a fresh reserve. James “Cecil” Hilterbrand will also be a fresh reserve after returning from a successful trip with the US Eagles. He will supplement a fearsome front row of Hayden Stringer, Vance Elliot and Mitch Lewis.
Cecil was in the run on Eagles team with Greg Peterson that narrowly lost to Italy 20-24. He also made the run on team against Russia winning 25-0 (Greg was injured and did not play).
Other news is that Shuan Treweek, fresh from a stint playing in Scotland, will come in at no 12.
So we are getting the strength and depth back at this important time of the season.
Penrith no pushovers
“It certainly wasn’t a training run,” said Sam Lane. “They have some big players and speedy backs.
“Their defence was difficult to read with some players rushing up unexpectedly,” he continued. “It makes it tricky when you are playing against such an unstructured approach.
However, the MMMs went on for a big 65-0 win. “We scored some well worked tries.”
Reserve back Shaun Treweek got a hat trick and hooker, Vance Elliot, two meat pies!
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