Canterbury Bulldogs v Manly Sea Eagles @ ANZ Stadium
The Bulldogs will be looking to further cement their Top 4 position when they lock horns with Manly at ANZ Stadium on Thursday Night. The Bulldogs are coming off the back of scrappy wins against the Dragons and Knights and will want to improve on their execution against the Eagles. Manly's finals hopes were all but extinguished as they went down narrowly to Parramatta 10-9 in a controversial finish at Pirtek Stadium. Manly now require 4 straight wins to finish on 28 points and with a poor differential even that might not be enough to qualify for the finals.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler has named an unchanged line up as the Bulldogs go in search of a 3rd straight win. Brett Morris has been in fantastic form since his mid season return and along with brother Josh they form a lethal combination on the Bulldogs left. David Klemmer has also been in fine form since returning from origin. The enforcer will see an opportunity to put a relatively inexperienced Manly pack on the back foot here. The Bulldogs had particular success through the middle against Manly in Round 1 as they demolished the Eagles at Brookvale 28-6. While the Bulldogs have maintained their lofty position on the ladder ever since that Round 1 ambush they have never quite managed to put in the same level of commanding performance. Whilst winning form is good form they need to start executing their last tackle plays and attack inside the opposition 20 if they are to be there on grand final night in October.
Manly will welcome the return of captain Jamie Lyon in the five-eight position for this clash. Their attack was shut down last week as too much responsibility fell on the shoulders of Daly Cherry-Evans. Manly have offensive weapons in the likes of high profile recruits Martin Tapau and Dylan Walker, however the pair have experienced relatively quiet campaigns. Manly have been at their best lately with Lyon in the 6 and Trbojevic at fullback and they will fancy their chances of causing the Bulldogs some problems here. Rookie coach Trent Barrett has had a rough introduction to the first grade pressure cooker and will no doubt be riding every play again this week.
Verdict - Manly have the potential to beat the Bulldogs if the Dogs are not on their game here. However the Bulldogs have been the masters of finding a way to win ugly this season. I just think they have too much to play for here. The Dogs will also fancy their chances of asserting their dominance through the middle like they did in the Round 1 clash. Bulldogs by 10.