By Guest Writer Stephen Gallagher
GAME OF THE ROUND: ROUND 20 – Manly Warringah Sea Eagles V Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs – Friday, AAMI Park 19.45 local time, 21.45 NZ time.
LAST WEEK: Manly Warringah were embarrassed at the hands of the Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium 32-6
THIS WEEK: The Sea Eagles will be hoping that their injured stars will be back to help them dismantle the side sitting first equal with Melbourne. Brookvale Oval is always a bit of a fortress, so to play one of the top sides in the competition at home will give them the boost they will need to try overcome one big obstacle. They will need to produce on of their best performances of the season if they want to get away with a win here, and having already beaten the Bulldogs this season that’ll just add to their confidence.
The Bulldogs are having a season to remember, and with six rounds to go they sit on top with Melbourne. It will be Des Hasler’s first trip back to Brookie since leaving at the end of last season after delivering a Premiership to the faithful there. This will be a crucial game for the Bulldogs. They need to keep on winning if they want to have a shot at the Minor Premiership title which is just out of reach. They have found the perfect balance of muscle and flair which will see them put out another 100 percent performance on the night.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Physicality from Manly. They are a side who thrive on it. It’s their big boppers that have paved their way on the field to success so far this season, as their forwards are showing their experience and value to rookie coach Geoff Toovey. In front of their home fans I expect a performance that will take a lot to topple, and they will have a lot more desperation than what they showed last week defensively. This is such a tough ask, but having beaten the Bulldogs already this season they know how to get it done.
Canterbury are a side which could be down and out with ten minutes to go, and have the composure and brilliance to come back and win it. Don’t expect them to just come out and win this one, because it will be a lot tougher than that. With the likelihood of Sam Kasiano being suspended and spending his Friday night on Pokerblog, the other monster forwards will have to take it upon themselves to share the workload this man does. It’s the passing at the line by their forwards which has been so tough to defend all season that can create tries from all over the field.
THE BATTLE OF: The super centres. Jamie Lyon is captain fantastic, and has been the rock of this Sea Eagles outfit all season. He consistently produces the goods which can inspire his side whether up by 12 points or down by 20. A season veteran which will lead by example any day of the week.
Josh Morris is probably having his best ever season, and the way he has been finding the line this year tells me he will probably get over again in this game. Defensively sound and on attack even better – he has been a major strike weapon since joining the Bulldogs.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Brett Stewart – Back from a slight hamstring twinge, Snake will try to be back to his menacing best in front of his home fans. A valuable asset to try get a win here.
Greg Eastwood – Under the radar a bit for most of the year, but he brings in a physical presence only he can. A monster to tackle and gutsy defending his line.
This is going to be tough, and taking in to account that Manly have already beaten the Bulldogs this season makes me think that they can do it again. However, that was 12 rounds ago, and the Bulldogs are much better and stronger since that clash. Hard to look past them. 22-10 to the Bulldogs.
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