Manly v New Zealand Warriors
Manly's million dollar man Daly Cherry-Evans delivered on his price tag kicking the winning field goal in golden point extra time to see off the Warriors 15-14. In a game played in atrocious conditions at Perth's NIB Stadium the Eagles hung tough, scoring just 3 points after the 15 minute mark to hold on for a crucial win. The Warriors will be left to rue several missed opportunities on the long 10 hour flight home as 2 crucial points were frittered away. The worst offender being Solomone Kata who dropped the ball cold with the line gaping in the 60th minute with the Warriors trailing 14-12.
Manly skipped away to an early 12-0 lead and looked all set to build on their previous victory against the Dragons. A name not probably high on the Eagles scouting report this week was Warriors back rower Bunty Afoa. Afoa, playing just his second NRL game, put his name up in lights with a double charging through gaping holes in the Eagles line. The second half turned into a war of attrition with the Warriors dominating the field possession and having a mortgage on all the try scoring opportunities. Whilst they managed to draw level at 14-14 with 6 minutes to play they once again failed to take their chances to win the game.
Manly will leave Perth riding the high of a 2 game winning streak and will fancy their chances against the hapless Bunnies next Monday Night at ANZ Stadium. There is no doubt Manly will be a team to watch next season as their combinations and the coaching of Trent Barrett start to settle in. The Warriors slumped to the turf nearly to a man after the golden point realising the consequences for their season. They will have to lick their wounds as they face going to chilly Canberra, a place where the Raiders have been hard to beat in 2016.
Verdict - I expected plenty of points and a tight Manly win. Whilst the conditions kept points to a premium Manly managed to eke out a win despite being on the back foot for long periods. I expect them to finish the season quite strongly but miss the finals. The Warriors, I honestly don't know what to make of this side, but they are underachieving again coming up short in the clutch. The Raiders will fancy their chances of inflicting further misery on them next week.
Souths v Brisbane
The Broncos rebounded with a much needed victory casting aside a depleted South Sydney 30-10 at ANZ Stadium. After back to back hidings the Broncos confidence booting win was not the prettiest, but that won't matter to coach Wayne Bennett. The Bunnies slumped to a 6th consecutive loss on the back of some poor errors and soft goal line defence. Without the services of Greg Inglis and Adam Reynolds, there was plenty of effort from the Bunnies but they remain a club in a real rut.
The Broncos bounded out of the blocks running in 3 tries in the opening 20 minutes to race out to an 18-6 lead. After some resistance from the Bunnies before and after half time a quick fire double from James Roberts and an intercept try to Corey Oates sealed the rout. Souths had some willing performances from Luke Keary and Cody Walker however looked outmatched right across the park. Whilst for the Broncos the win will be a relief, they still look suspect defensively and stronger sides would have punished them on occasions tonight.
The Broncos can now breathe easier with the Origin period over and they will look forward to putting their feet up before they take on the Panthers at home on Friday night. With a softish run home they will be looking to keep up some momentum as the race for the Top 4 and the crucial double chance intensifies. Souths will have to pick themselves up to face a resurgent Manly next Monday night at ANZ.
Verdict - I expected a Broncos win but probably not as comfortably as they achieved it. Without Inglis and Reynolds, Souths were never in the game. Brisbane will gradually start getting back to where they were earlier in the season, whilst the Bunnies are a lock for the bottom 4 in 2016.