R 26 Holden Cup Manly Sea Eagles vs Penrith Panthers at Lottoland

Holden Cup Elimination Final

Sea Eagles v Cowboys, Allianz Stadium, Sunday 11:15am

Manly Sea Eagles Holden Cup Coach Wayne Lambkin says his team must be switched on mentally in defence against the free flowing North Queensland Cowboys this Sunday.

The Sea Eagles finished the U20s competition in eighth position with the Cowboys in fifth place. The two teams have met just the once this season with the Cowboys escaping with victory in the dying seconds in Townsville in round three.

The elimination final at Allianz Stadium should be a ripping contest.

The Cowboys were ranked third in defence after 26 rounds with Manly seventh. In attack, Manly had the second best attacking record with the Cowboys a place behind.

“Their strength is their ability with the footy. They are a quick side. They move the ball around a lot. We have to be on our toes defensively,’’ Lambkin said.

“Like all U20s, there are weaknesses in their defence. There are plenty of areas where we can get points. It is just about stopping a flood of points from them.

“We just have to get down and roll our sleeves up defensively and realise how important it is to limit their points.

“If we can do that, we can certainly score the amount of points we need to win.”

In team changes, Lambkin has chosen Kurtis Preece as the man to steer the team around at half-back over regular number seven Cade Cust. Preece has played 13 matches to Cust’s 22 games this season.

“Kurtis played a game against Canterbury a few weeks ago and he controlled the game really well. His kicking game was outstanding,’’ Lambkin said.

“Cade will play a role off the bench and can cover a couple of spots if we get injuries.”

In a major blow for the Sea Eagles, the team has lost hard working captain Jesse Martin for two matches through suspension, and giant prop Taniela Paseka with a knee injury.

Martin was suspended for a lifting tackle in the final round loss to the Penrith Panthers at Lottoland last Saturday. Paseka is likely to miss two to three weeks should Manly keep winning.

“The suspension is terrible news for Jesse. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He was devastated,’’ Lambkin added.

“Taniela was playing his best game of the season for us. He was outstanding in the first 20 minutes. He was running hard and was very aggressive in defence. He tackled a Penrith player and pushed him back in goal and that’s when he did his knee.

“Both are massive losses to the team but there are a few blokes there who are biting at the opportunity to fill the role.”

Meanwhile, Lambkin praised Jesse Martin and hooker Manase Fainu on winning the team’s major awards at the Sea Eagles presentation night last Monday.

Fainu won the Best and Fairest award while Martin took home the Players’ Player award.

“Manase’s attitude towards the development of his game has been outstanding this year. He has been constantly talking to me about what he can do to improve,’’ Lambkin said.

“As for Jesse, he is the first player picked every week. He is a tough kid who can play 80 minutes as captain. He has been an asset to the team and a great representative to the club.”