Saved by the Hand of God

By Adam Lucius

For two long minutes the Manly Oval faithful held its collective breath on Saturday and waited to see whether a few blades of grass were about to deny the Marlins their first win over Sydney Uni in seven years.

Behind 25-19, a possible try to Students prop Sam Talakai right next to the posts went upstairs for appraisal by the third match official.

"Is there any reason I cannot award a try?" asked referee James Leckie ominously.

Those in the 200 Club knew it was close but were adamant it deserved a red light after watching countless replays.

After what seemed an eternity, the reply finally came back: "No try. Held up over the line."

Exhausted Manly players, having repelled Uni for 18 phases right on their line, joined the large pro-Marlins crowd in celebrating a rare success over the six-time champions.

You have to go back to 2004 when a try double to Luke Donnan, now carrying the water for first grade, for Manly's last triumph against the Students.    

If you like your drama in large doses, the Village Green was the only place to be on Saturday.

The hosts looked to have the game in their keeping when Chris Yarrington and Chris Cottee swept in for tries in the early stages of the second half.

But two tries in the final 17 minutes drew Uni back into the contest before they threatened to steal the match after 83 thrilling minutes.

Manly coach Tim Lane feared the worst after the try decision went upstairs.       

"The way it was going at the end, yeah, I thought they might give it," he said.

"We played some good footy but gave them a couple of opportunities to get back in the game.

"But we hung in there. Our goal-line defence was awesome and they were really up for this one.

"It was a good response after the loss to Souths last week."

Cottee typified the sort of determination and commitment so evident in Manly's game, rushing from Sydney Airport to Manly via a cab after catching a flight back from New Zealand following his stint on the Western Force bench.

He came on at half-time and was immediately in the action, backing up Yarrington's break to touch down six minutes later.

That gave Manly a 22-9 advantage and, seemingly, a firm grip on proceedings.

"I'm glad I made it. It all worked out well in the end," Cottee said of his Trains, Planes and Automobiles journey.

"I can't remember the last time we beat Uni      

"Any win over the champs is memorable."

The game stats made for staggering reading: Uni enjoying 54% of possession and spending 21 minutes in Manly's quarter compared to Manly's 10 minutes.

The Marlins had plenty of heroes, but few better than Yarrington, Cadeyrn Neville and debutant Harry Bergelin.

Lui Siale was sharp out wide and provided the hand that prevented Uni from scoring that try after the bell, while fullback Marshall Milroy, fly-half Ben Seymour, big inside centre Peter Gilmore and hooker James Hilterbrand all had some very good movements.

The win keeps Manly in third spot on 36 points, trailing Easts (37) and undefeated Eastwood (47).

The competition takes a breather over the June long weekend before Manly resume against Randwick at Coogee Oval on June 18.

Half Way Through

With 10 rounds gone and the mid-season break behind us, it's time to deliver our report card on the Manly Marlins. Adam Lucius spoke to head coach Tim Lane.

 

AL: How would you sum up the season to date?

TL: We are going along okay at 7 and 3. We probably should have beaten Souths and Easts and made it 9 and 1 but we didn't. They were opportunities lost. We've had players coming in and out of the side and that's been frustrating not having the same team each week. It's been difficult to get that continuity but a lot of clubs could say the same thing.

AL: Are you pretty much where you thought you'd be at this stage?

TL: Like I said, we should have won a couple more but to be there where we are is pretty pleasing given the turnover of players. We have struggled to play a full 80 minutes but that's also understandable given all the chopping and changing. I'd hoped and expected we'd be in the top two or three and that's where we find ourselves.  

AL: And the highlights over the first 10 rounds?

TL: Obviously any time you beat Sydney Uni is special so that is the obvious standout. Wins like that can shape a season. As any Manly fan will tell you, beating Warringah is right up there as well. Our second half against them was very good. But I am hoping - and I am confident - there are even better days ahead.  

AL: Who are the players who have impressed you?

TL: Cotts has been very good for us. BJ Hartmann has shown he has enormous potential. Lui Siale's been very, very strong. Cadeyrn Neville has stood out, Kotoni Ale's been consistent, Eddie Aholelei's been solid, as has Ed Gower. Everyone has put their hand up. Once we get everyone back and develop a rhythm then I think we are going to be a pretty good team.

AL: You've played every club bar Randwick, who do you see as Manly's biggest threats?     

TL: Eastwood are obviously the benchmark at the moment. The day we played them the ground wasn't in great condition and dictated how we played the game. It probably wasn't a great indication of what we can do. We missed a few opportunities there and they had a couple of iffy calls go their way. They are a very good team and have been going along nicely but I don't think they are unbeatable. Obviously they will get a few players back but so will Randwick, Eastern Suburbs, Uni, Southern Districts. The top five teams are going to be pretty strong a few weeks down the track.

AL: And what about Manly in the second half of the season?

TL: We will be stronger too. Just looking at some of the guys due back...Hegarty, Hooper, Coleman, Andrew Smith, Tyrone Smith and Jono Owen. It's going to be a bit of a juggling act fitting them all in but it's a nice problem to have. We'll be keeping a couple of guys fresh each week and that's a great position to be in when you come to the end of a long season. People will have their thoughts about where we should or might finish but it's a bit early for rash predictions. Let's just say we'd be disappointed not to finish up somewhere in that leading pack.  

AL: Finally, how have you found life back in the Shute Shield after a 14-year absence?

TL: It's been very good. Not much has changed. Some of the same old faces are still here. The club is probably stronger as a whole than what it was in '97. We're doing well through all the grades and the colts. The (first grade) colts hadn't beaten Uni in 10 years before last week so that was a great boost for them and the club. It shows we're in great shape for the future. The nucleus of the first grade side is very young so I think the club will be very strong for many, many years. I am really enjoying it and the support we are getting has been fantastic. The boys love playing in front of the locals at Manly Oval and we're hoping they have plenty more to cheer about over the coming weeks and months.

Lane laments blown chances

By Adam Lucius

A missed sideline conversion with time up cost Manly the chance to snatch an undeserved draw with Randwick in a high-scoring affair at Coogee Oval on Saturday.

Ben Seymour pushed his attempt just wide of the posts after Cadeyrn Neville had scored to make it 33-31 in the dying seconds.

It was one of several costly misses from the fly-half, who has been struggling with the boot in recent weeks.

The Marlins trailed Randwick all game but to their credit fought back late to almost share the points.

They scored five tries to three and finished with two bonus points, ending the day in third place on the Shute Shield table.

Try-scoring machine Eddie Aholelei finished with a double, fellow front-rower Dane Maraki touched down for the first time in Manly colours and Chris Yarrington and Neville also crossed.  

Seymour conceded: "We probably didn't deserve the draw.

"We just handed them the game though mistakes and not taking the right options.

"Tim (Lane) was very disappointed with our performance as he should have been.

"Losses like this can come back to hurt you at finals time."

Seymour shouldered some of the blame, admitting his misfiring right boot is a major cause for concern.

"I'm not kicking well and it's something I've got to rectify," he declared.

"I'm a bit low on confidence and not striking the ball well.

"I know where I'm going wrong and I'm just going to have to work hard to fix the problem."

 Manly were their own worst enemy, constantly forced to fight their way back into the contest after gifting Randwick points.

Four penalties in the second half accounted for 12 of the Galloping Greens' points, with Lane frustrated by his team's lack of discipline and poor ball control.

"We did enough in the game to win by 20 points but bombed at least three clear cut try-scoring opportunities," Lane lamented.

"It was not of the standard we set ourselves each week."

 Manly are back at home to face Gordon next Saturday, with Lane hopeful of regaining one or two of his Super Rugby reps.

Manly Remembers Two of Its Greatest

Manly Rugby Club is mourning the sad passing of club legends Bill Pattinson and Rex Mossop.

 

Pattinson, 85, was one of Manly rugby’s biggest supporters and The Pattinson Trust of which Bill was a beneficiary, has contributed over $1 million since becoming a sponsor in 1991. Bill, a life member was a regular at the Oval and his cheerful presence will be sadly missed by all rugby lovers.

 

Mossop, 83, was a dual international representing Australia in both Union and League. He started his illustrious football career at Manly Rugby, making his 1st grade debut aged 16. From there Mossop played for the Wallabies before a successful career in Rugby League as a player and as a charismatic commentator. More recently Mossop was named in Manly Rugby’s team of the century.

 

The pair will be remembered at Manly Oval this Saturday for the game against Gordon with all Manly players wearing black arm bands and observing a minutes silence before 1st grade.