By Stephen Gallagher
MATCH OF THE ROUND: ROUND 25 – Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles V Melbourne Storm – Saturday, Brookvale Oval. 19.30 local time, 21.30NZT.
LAST WEEK: Manly racked up a comprehensive 36-22 victory over Canberra.
Melbourne batted first in what was a display much more interesting than the recent effort that Australia put in during the Ashes. 64-4 over the Eels.
THIS WEEK: The Sea Eagles at home are a side to be reckoned with. One of the most consistent football teams in the 8 or so years, they have the talent and experience to be very exciting to watch. Backed by the fact they’re at home, there’s plenty writing on this game for them.
The speed wobbles have left the Storm mid-season and now they’re powering through to the finals in what looks to be very dangerous for opposition sides. There’s never any love lost between these two when they play, and a draw last time is even more reason to get a result in this one.
WHAT TO EXPECT: A tough and rough game to match Melbourne. Manly have got plenty of guts and even more so in the big clashes, so you know they’re going to show up and do everything they can to win. A side built on the power created up front. it’s the silky smoothness of their calm halves that make difficult things come off with great ease. Plenty of game winners all over the park to get up.
Melbourne are the sort of side who love winning on the road when it counts. An entire stadium of fans against them that they’d love to keep quiet. Potentially a loss big enough here could see Manly leap-frog Melbourne in to the top four. Players will be on notice too, and that will fire them up even more.THE BATTLE OF:The halfbacks. Daly Cherry-Evans has probably grown up a Cooper Cronk fan, and there’s a lot of Cronk’s vision in DCE’s game. Cherry-Evans is a young guy but I’ve yet to see him play poorly. Plenty of talent and plenty of skills to burn.
I don’t think Cronk is a natural leader, but he knows how to get things done. His way around the field is superb and when it comes to getting guys in to position he will have no fear in telling you. Daft touches and a big kicks is just second nature to him.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON: David Williams – I think Wolfman has had his best season since the Sea Eagles won the Premiership in 2008. His finishing this year has been exceptional.
Brett Finch – Retiring at the seasons end, his best football has never been with Melbourne, but it will be a pressure-free performance this one.
I think being at home makes a big difference here. Manly are always so good at home but Melbourne won’t be easy beats. Sea Eagles 16-12.
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