Manly captain Joshua Schuster and his team are brilliant front-runners. Photo: Bryden Sharp
Getting off to a flying start could well prove to be the decisive factor in the Harold Matthews Grand Final this Saturday at Leichhardt Oval.
Grand finalists, Manly and Newcastle, have shown this season how dominant they are as front-runners when it comes to tries being scored in the first half. Halves are played over 30 minutes.
From 10 different games (listed below) – remembering some sides don’t play each other – the undefeated Knights have scored 51 first half tries.
Of Manly’s 10 games (below), the Sea Eagles have scored 50 first half tries.
The finals series has seen Manly score 18 first half tries in three matches played. Newcastle have scored 14 tries from their two matches.
Last weekend’s preliminary finals saw Manly scored 5 first half tries to lead Parramatta 26-10 at half-time. Newcastle scored 9 first half tries to lead 40-0 at half-time over Canberra.
Sea Eagles full-back Albert Hopoate is the competition's leading tryscorer with 15.
Manly Coach Brett Fulton said both teams play a reasonably similar game.
“It will be interesting given how we both like to start fast. It will be a quick game,’’ Fulton said.
“Both sides will get the ball out to their players who can do some damage.
“Newcastle deserve to be the favourites with what they have been able to achieve this year, so we are happy to be the underdogs.”
Minor premiers Newcastle accounted for Manly 40-16 in round four in Cessnock. The Sea Eagles finished the regular season in fifth place with six wins from eight games.
The Sea Eagles will be out to create history as the club searches for its first Harold Matthews title since the competition began in 1970. It will be the first time Manly has played in a Harold Matthews Grand Final.
Newcastle won the Harold Matthews title in 1992, 2000, and 2014, and were runners-up in 1996, 2012 and 2016.
The stage is now set for a classic grand final at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday. Kick-off is 11am.
Newcastle in the First Half
Rd 2: vs Canberra, 4 tries (8 for game)
Rd 3: Balmain, 2 tries (7 for game)
Rd 4: vs Manly, 8 tries (8 for game)
Rd 5: vs Western Sydney Academy, 4 tries (10 for game)
Rd 6: vs Souths, 2 tries (4 for game)
Rd 7: vs Penrith, 4 tries (8 for game)
Rd 8: vs Sydney Roosters, 7 tries (13 for game)
Rd 9: vs Western Suburbs, 6 tries (9 for game)
Qualifying final: vs Illawarra, 5 tries (8 for game)
Preliminary final: vs Canberra, 9 tries (9 for game)
Ten games: 51 First Half tries.
Manly in the First Half
Rd 2: vs Souths, 5 tries (10 for game)
Rd 3: vs Western Sydney Academy, 9 tries (10 for game)
Rd 4: vs Newcastle: 3 tries (3 tries for game)
Rd 5: vs Penrith, 4 tries (7 tries for game)
Rd 6: vs Cronulla, 2 tries (2 tries for game)
Rd 7: vs Western Suburbs, 7 tries (10 for game)
Rd 9: vs Central Coast Roosters, 2 tries (11 tries for game).
Qualifying final: vs Central Coast Roosters, 7 tries (9 for game)
Semi-final: vs Illawarra, 6 tries (9 for game)
Preliminary final: vs Parramatta, 5 tries (6 for game)
Ten games: 50 First Half tries.
Harold Matthews Grand Final
Newcastle Knights v Manly Sea Eagles
Leichhardt Oval, Saturday 6 May, 11am
Entry $5 adults, children under 16 free, pensioners free
See the Manly team here and their season results.