Round 2 of the current season was the last time we clashed with the Storm and while the boys from Melbourne have sent their weather up this way to the Northern Beaches in a bid to disrupt preparations for the trip to Victoria, the Sea Eagles will be looking to use motivation from their previous clash to inspire the Manly side back to the winners circle.
The game started even early on and Manly found themselves in good field position after some aggressive running and good metres off new recruit Willie Mason, who really stepped up his game for his first appearance in Manly colours at Brookvale Oval. However, they were unable to make the position count. Peta Hiku went close when he chased skipper Jamie Lyon’s grubber kick, but he came up short and was unable to ground the ball.
It took a fantastic effort from another new boy Feleti Mateo, to get the Sea Eagles first points on the board. The second rower charged at the Melbourne line with a fiery determination, which allowed him to get away a signature offload to fill in five eight Jamie Buhrer, who scythed a pass to the returning centre Steve Matai to score on his first game of the 2015 season.
Manly may have felt hard done by after Daly Cherry Evans towering bomb was dropped by Storm fullback Billy Slater, which on field referee Jared Maxwell ruled to have travelled backwards. This allowed the Storm to build momentum around an uneven Manly line and a cut out pass from Billy Slater, found Young Tonumaipea, who raced down the wing to score Melbourne’s first try, which was converted by Cameron Smith out wide.
Slater’s opposite number Brett Stewart found other ways to deal with sky soaring bombs with a double foot control, which bounced favourably in his direction.
A huge hit from Dunamis Lui on Tonumaipea got the crowd up on their feet and showed Manly still had firepower upfront, which had been criticised last week.
As the first half wore on, the Melbourne Storm worked their way into the game and found themselves camping in Manly’s half. Yet the men from Victoria were greeted with a solid goal line defence and when Manly eventually regained possession, Cherry Evans produced a sublime flick pass to Tom Symonds, splitting the Melbourne defence. The young second rower burst through and then found fullback Brett Stewart who scored under the posts to equal the all time Brookvale try record with Steven Menzies.
Off the back of their sucker punch try Manly stepped up their game and it wasn’t long until they got the third try of the evening. Brilliant lead up work almost produced Brett Stewarts record-breaking try, however the club stalwart juggled the ball in to his grasp before being tackled by Melbourne rival Billy Slater. But Manly composed themselves and Daly Cherry Evans reverse kick was placed brilliantly, allowing interchange player Blake Leary to score his first try for the Sea Eagles.
And, it wasn’t long until the man known as ‘Snake’ broke the Club record. More front row passing split Melbourne open again and the ever-present Cherry Evans found enough space to run straight through the Storm’s defence before releasing his teammate for his 79th try at Brookvale Oval.
Jamie lyon made no mistake from the boot and Manly went into the sheds with a 24-6 lead at half time.
The second half started with awesome pace but no points came off it. Mateo threw the ball around like it was park footy, and the rest of the team followed suit with a string of offloads and flick passes.
He who should not be named continued to wow the crowd with some questionable decisions. Geoff Toovey’s expression on the offside ruling against Matt Ballin summed up what everyone was thinking, and the decision lead to Melbourne’s next try, which was scored by five eighth Blake Green.
Marika Koroibete sparked the game back into life when he turned his kick return into an almost 80 metre try. It forced the best out Brett Stewart, who produced a extraordinary tackle to stop the Fijian flyer. However, his break left Manly stretched, and Melbourne switched it to the other side and Will Chambers step inside Matai to reduce the deficit to 24-16.
The game continued to fire up as the game drew closer to the end. The Sea Eagles found increasing motivation through halfback Daly Cherry Evans who danced and weaved his way through Melbourne players.
With the game hanging in the balance Melbourne were always going to send it down to the wire when Blake Green barged over the line for his second try of the night. Cameron Smith converted to make it a two-point game.
Manly were then forced into scrambling defence when Melbourne started their last attack on their own 30-metre line. However, they were unable to get far enough down the field and a loose ball was ruled in Manly’s favour and the Sea Eagles saw out a nervy 30 seconds to win the game.
Manly won the match 24-22 to give themselves their first win of the season.