Flying Wingers leave the Nest

By Adam Lucius

First the good news.

Manly wingers Lui Siale and JP du Plessis scored seven tries between them as Manly routed Penrith 85-7 on Saturday to maintain second spot on the Shute Shield table.

Now for the bad news.

Both Du Plessis and Siale have played their last games in Manly colours.

Du Plessis is returning to his native South Africa to take up a contract with Super Rugby outfit the Stormers.

The popular Siale shocked teammates after the Penrith game by telling them he was leaving for France after signing up a two-year deal with a club in Toulouse.

Du Plessis only played a handful of games for the Marlins, while Siale gave great value over 104 games.

Both players will be sorely missed.

"I got a bit emotional. It's been a great ride the whole way," Siale said seconds after announcing his decision.

"I can't think of a better place to play football than Manly.

"The way we are going at the moment...second place on the table and getting some momentum going forward towards the semis (does make it hard to leave).

"I was hoping to get into the Super 15s but that didn't eventuate so I've got to take this opportunity to go overseas.

"I've got to make the most of it. I'll see how it goes.

"The club's got a lot of depth. It's a bit hard leaving but I am sure the boys will be fine."

Du Plessis added: "I am done in Australia for now.

"It was a good experience playing in Australia and I am really grateful for the opportunity.

"Hopefully I will be back sometime in the future."

BJ Hartmann, Brian Sefanaia and Jacob Woodhouse loom as the logical back three options for coach Tim Lane in the run to the finals.

Siale and Du Plessis had a friendly bet before the Penrith game, wagering on who would finish with the most tries.

The South African got the cash, his four-try effort just eclipsing Siale's hat-trick.

Manly scored 13 tries in all, some the result of poor defence but others on the back of some brilliant attacking play.

The Emus tried hard as always but were simply outclassed.

Manly led 59-0 at the break and kept the foot down in the second half to bolster their for and against column.

Fly-half Ben Seymour finished with a personal tally of 25 points after booting 10 conversions and scoring a try.

Centre Robbie Coleman looked sharp in his comeback match, scoring a try and looking dangerous with every touch. 

Manly's task gets a whole lot harder over the final month of the regular season, with Norths (away), Souths (home), Uni (away) and Randwick (home) awaiting. 

Kotoni kills off Shoremen

By Adam Lucius

Manly players have made a pact to extend their winning run all the way to the end of the regular season to ensure they secure a break in the first week of the finals.

After seeing off Northern Suburbs 34-29 in a see-sawing affair at North Sydney Oval on Saturday, the second-placed Marlins immediately turned their attention to a critical three-week period in which they will play three teams either in the top six or just outside.

They host seventh-placed Southern Districts next Saturday before taking on Sydney Uni (third) and Randwick (fifth).

Manly are two points ahead of the Students, with the August 28 clash at Uni Oval shaping as the pivotal match.

If the Marlins finish in the top two they will go straight through to week two of the play-offs and the grand final qualifier.       

"We've spoken a lot about staying in that top two so we get the week off in the first week of the finals," breakaway Kotoni Ale said minutes after his man-of-the-match performance against Norths.

"The run home is not easy but the good thing is it's all in our hands.

"If we win them all then we stay second.

"That's why (Norths) was an important win. It was a good effort from all the boys."

The lead changed hands four times in an entertaining match at North Sydney Oval but in the end the better side came out on top.

Manly scored five tries to two and overcame a heavy 12-4 penalty count against them en route to their fourth straight win.

They led 14-0 early before handing Norths points and finding themselves down 20-19 at the break.

The Shoremen extended their advantage with a penalty goal just after the interval before Ale stepped up to centre stage.

He scored on 53 minutes and just moments later turned acrobat to break clear down the right and dance away from the sideline before passing inside for Jacob Woodhouse to score.

Manly stayed in front for the rest of the game despite two more Norths penalties eating away at their' advantage.

Woodhouse (2), Ale, James Hilterbrand and Ben Seymour were the try scorers.

"We're down on troops at the moment so every win we get in this period is invaluable," Manly coach Tim Lane said.

"We gifted them points through two soft tries but overall it was a very good performance.

"Kotoni was outstanding and so was 'Cecil' (James Hilterbrand) at tight head. All the forwards were very good."

Looking ahead at the tough run home, Lane continued: "We have got ourselves in a good position and the ball is now in our court.

"We've got eight guys away or unavailable but we will slowly start to get a few of them back over the next couple of weeks.

"The Uni game looms as the big one but we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves."


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.