Marlins facing Super Uni side

By Adam Lucius

 

Seven consecutive wins, rep players as far as the eye can see, home ground advantage, six straight premierships - they are just four reasons Sydney University will start Saturday's match against Manly as the warmest of favourites.

But the Marlins aren't about to lie down for the Shute Shield aristocrats in a match that will decide second spot and a week off in the first week of the finals.

It will also be the day the club championship is decided along with a host of lower grade and Colts semi-final positions.

After stringing together a winning run of their own - five straight - with a side knocked around by injury and rep call-ups, Manly have hit form at the right time of the year.

And in a huge boost ahead of the trip to Uni Oval, the visitors get Melbourne Rebels forwards Eddie Aholelei and Cadeyrn Neville back along with Brumbies centres Andrew Smith and Robbie Coleman.

And they meet a Students side missing a plethora of Wallabies and Australian Barbarians.

Still, the task is enormous.     

Uni will still field a team containing Dean Mumm, Phil Waugh, Daniel Halangahu, Jeremy Tilse and Tom Carter.

"We've had this one circled for a while and we'll need to go in all guns blazing," breakaway Michael Hooper said.

"If you beat Sydney Uni before going into the finals then it obviously gives you an awesome lift.

"We're playing some of our best football of the year.

"We're looking good and really looking forward to Saturday."

Manly beat Uni 25-19 back in round 10 in arguably the game of the season.

The TMO was called into action after the fulltime bell and asked to adjudicate on a possible Uni try next to the sticks.

The verdict went the Marlins' way and the mob on the hill erupted.

Manly coach Tim Lane claims he hasn't dwelled on that result or become fixated with Uni's progress since.    

"I am not too worried about what they have done to other sides," he said matter-of-factly.

"As long as we go over there and have a dig I will be happy.

"To get that extra week off and get a bit more breathing space would be great."

Captain Chris Cottee added: "It's a massive game. We want to win to try and keep second and to keep the winning momentum going."

"If we stay with our structures then that will go along towards winning."

We'd give you Uni coach Todd Louden's thoughts on the game but he's obviously been too busy or too plain important to bother responding.

Despite trying to get him via phone, text or email since Monday, Louden hasn't bothered replying.

Maybe he'll have a bit to talk about come 5pm Saturday.  

Tough Day against the Students

By Adam Lucius

Manly walked away from Uni Oval on Saturday beaten but convinced they can rattle Sydney Uni's cage should the sides meet again in the Shute Shield finals.

The Marlins led 11-10 early in the second half but were eventually overpowered 32-14 to slip from second to third on the table.

Unless there is minor miracle and Warringah beat the Students in next Saturday's final round, Manly will finish third and meet either Randwick or Norths in the first week of the play-offs.

Win that and Tim Lane's men will be pitchforked into the grand final qualifier against Uni on September 18.  

"We gave them a few soft ones and didn't take the chances we had in the first half," Lane lamented after Saturday's loss.

"Had we taken a couple of opportunities it may have been a different story, but at least we know we're not that far away from them."

The confidence among the players was just as strong.

"Until they scored that try under the posts (to take it to 27-11) I thought we were right in it," breakaway Michael Hooper said.

"We're a bit shattered to lose it. A few tries went begging.

"At least we know what we have to do if we play them again.

"We're in good stead for the finals."

 But the negatives were not and cannot be glossed over.

Uni won the 'big' moments in the game, hanging in early when Manly enjoyed possession and field position and  cashing in when it was their turn.

The Marlins were unlucky to have a try to winger Jacob Woodhouse disallowed for a forward pass after a long bust from lock Cadeyrn Neville just before half-time.

But tries to Nathan Trist and Bernard Foley in quick succession midway through the second half killed the visitors off.

Attention now turns to Randwick at Manly Oval this Saturday.

The Marlins will get Western Force duo Willie Ripia and Tevita Metiusela back while classy centre Robbie Coleman also returns.

Prop Jono Owen may be back and there is a whisper Wycliff Palu may make a 30-40 minute cameo before departing for the World Cup.

"We'll have a bit more strikepower and control once we get everyone back on board," Lane said.

"We did a lot of good things (against Uni) but couldn't capitalise on what we created."

"We've got to finish the things we create."

Finals Time has arrived

By Adam Lucius

And then there were six.

After 22 rounds the Shute Shield finalists have been settled, with Eastwood topping the table from Sydney Uni, Manly, Easts, Randwick and Northern Suburbs.

The Marlins will take on Norths in the first elimination semi-final at Coogee Oval on Saturday after signing off with a hot-and-cold 39-33 victory over Randwick at Manly Oval.

If ever there was a game of two halves, this was it.

Ben Seymour scored after just 30 seconds and it looked like the most comfortable of afternoon for the locals.

Manly went on to led 31-5 at the break and the half-century and beyond beckoned.

But the Wicks came out and scored 28 points to the Marlins' eight in the second half to almost steal the most unlikely of wins.

The hosts, playing in front of a big Ladies Day crowd, steadied to round off a near perfect year at home (10 wins from 11).

"They clocked off in the second half which is disappointing. We did a lot of good things but then just let them in for some soft tries," coach Tim Lane said.

"It's probably just a mental thing. We will be right next week."

Manly beat Norths in both regular season games, but both were slender five-point wins.

"I'm sure they would have changed a bit since last time we played them," Lane said.

"We've just got to get our discipline and defence right."

Hooker Anthony Hegarty added: "Norths are a good side and it will be a tough encounter.

"They've got a number of Brumbies boys so we know what we're up against.

"We can't relax in the second half (like we did against Randwick). We need to take every opportunity that presents itself."

Manly will finally get classy centre Robbie Coleman back after weeks out with injury, leaving Lane a full contingent to choose from.

The coach was particularly happy with Seymour's performance at fullback, the No.15 contributing 19 of Manly's 39 points.

The Marlins made the finals in three of four grades - fourths missed out by just two points - and all three Colts grades.

Slow Start but Strong Finish

By Adam Lucius

Finally, Manly are through to the second week of a Shute Shield finals series after defeating Northern Suburbs 34-23 in the first elimination semi on Saturday.

After five years of heartache and disappointment after falling at the first hurdle, the Marlins came from 14-0 down to overpower Norths and earn a shot at Sydney Uni for a right to enter the 2011 grand final.

The early portents were not good at a cold and windy Coogee Oval.

Norths came out full of intensity and Manly could not go with them early.

The Shoremen went bang, bang to score two converted tries and lead 14-0 after as many minutes.

But as possession finally started to flow Manly's way, so did the points.

Two Ben Seymour tries cut Norths' lead and even though the Shoremen added a penalty, it was the Marlins finishing the stronger.     

A try right to Chris Cottee on half-time - scored while prop Dane Maraki was in the sin bin - gave Manly the lead for the first time.

The move was started deep in Norths' territory, with Andrew Smith, Michael Hooper and Willie Ripia handling before skipper Cottee crossed.

The Marlins controlled the game from that point on, adding second half tries to Cadeyrn Neville and Anthony Hegarty while keeping the persistent red and blacks at arm's length.

"The first 20 minutes they wanted it more than we did but it's reassuring that we can compose ourselves and get going again," said lock Neville, who was outstanding once again .

"Hopefully now that we've won in the first week that is in one ghost laid to rest."

Fullback Ben Seymour added: "This has been our bogey game the past couple of years so it's nice to get through it.

"But there is a lot to improve on.

"Norths came at us pretty hard and we didn't defend that well early.

"We put ourselves under pressure but the thing is we knew we could come back strongly."

Coach Tim Lane, who gave his side an old-fashioned bake after they clocked off the previous week, was full of pride following the drought-breaking win.

"It was very sweet," he declared.

"We didn't have the ball early but once we got our hands on the ball we put a couple on them.

"It was always going to come. I think five tries to two was a fair reflection of things."

Now, it's onto six-time premiers Sydney Uni at TG Millner next Sunday.

Manly beat the Students 25-19 back in round 10 before going down 32-14 in the return bout a fortnight ago.

Asked how it felt to be just 80 minutes away from a grand final berth - the club's first in 14 years - Neville responded: "I don't think we can think about it like that.

"We need to be thinking about trying to win the game.

"We exposed some chinks in their armour a couple of weeks ago but you've got to do it for 80 minutes against Uni."

Lane has maintained all along that Manly is capable of matching it with this much-vaunted Uni side.

"They will be hard to beat but I don't think they are unbeatable," he said.

"We showed two weeks ago we were capable of beating them.

"We're where we want to be. We've got a big challenge next week but we've got to go out with a good attitude and get the little things right."