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Manly prop Martin Taupau

If you could build a prototype for the modern front-rower the end result might look a lot like Martin Taupau.

Big enough to amass post-contact metres, fast enough to bust tackles, skillful enough to promote second-phase play through offloads, and nimble enough for a fast play-the-ball, there are numerous ways in which the Sea Eagles prop can disrupt an opposition defence.

The team tasked with finding a way to contain Taupau this week is the Gold Coast - the team with the second-worst defence in the Telstra Premiership (the Panthers had leaked 240 points compared to Gold Coast's 239 heading into the round) and who have conceded more penalties than all but two teams.

With Taupau and Addin Fonua-Blake up front, the Sea Eagles boast two of the game's hardest players to bring down, the pair both inside the top 13 for average post-contact metres.

When he's not carrying four forwards on his back through the middle of the field, Taupau is igniting the Manly attack with a quick play-the-ball (average of 3.41 seconds) or one of 17 offloads (equal 10th in the NRL through 10 rounds).

Exemplifying how effective he is in creating momentum for his team, Taupau is one of only seven forwards to have registered at least 13 play-the-balls of less than two seconds this season - proof that at least once a game you won't be able to contain him, nor the carnage that invariably follows.

The Sea Eagles have played with tremendous spirit and character to sit fifth on the Telstra Premiership ladder and Titans prop Jarrod Wallace knows any chance of toppling them on Friday at Lottoland begins with stopping Taupau.

"He is a big man and he's very awkward," Wallace said.

Sea Eagles v Titans - Round 11

"Sometimes he does run straight and sometimes he's got some of the best footwork in the game too.

"He's hard to get a gauge and a read on but that makes him the good player that he is.

"As a forward you want to have that late footwork because when you run straight into the line and get the big contact they're a bit easier to hold up and wrestle. These days the wrestlers in games are outstanding so you need that late footwork which Marty has got. He's finding his front, he's getting that offload plus he's as strong as an ox.

"That's what makes him so good."

With the exception of the weekly workload of captain Jake Trbojevic, Manly's pack is a largely unheralded one outside Sydney's northern beaches.

Taupau and Fonua-Blake challenge defenders to meet their effort and energy levels with each carry, Joel Thompson is a rock on the left edge, while Curtis Sironen has the size of his famous father Paul and a skill set shaped by a junior career spent almost exclusively in the halves.

Manly props Addin Fonua-Blake and Amrty Taupau
Manly props Addin Fonua-Blake and Amrty Taupau ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Including Queensland Origin hopeful Wallace, six of the Titans forwards have some type of representative experience but have their hands full if they are to break their four-game losing streak.

"Hopefully we can do a good job on Taupau because with him going, Addin Fonua-Blake and Jakey Trbojevic, that's a big pack," Wallace said.

"We need to make sure we're winning that ruck and winning the battle in the middle.

"If you look at our first 30 minutes on the weekend I think we went 15 from 15 sets, it was phenomenal. But then for some reason we think we need to do something different to maintain the lead.

"We probably get a bit panicked and start offloading balls maybe a bit too much or we get a bit frustrated and try and hold them down and get five or six penalties in a row.

"That just puts us under pressure and under the pump in defence and that starts taking gas away."


Acknowledgement of Country

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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