|Pace, Class and Lots of
Match Report by Neil
[Rugby League Week, September
30, 1987, pp 28-29]
Manly 18, Canberra 8
at the SCG
MANLY skipper Paul Vautin appropriately
summed up the Eagles of 1987 when he
addressed the last grand final crowd to
assemble at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
"A good football team
needs pace and class and lots of guts and
determination and this side is
full of all those things."
that extra guts and determination, shown particularly
by the forwards, was the difference between the Manly
side of this year and the Eagles of previous seasons.
class has always been there, but the character when
under pressure has not.
Sunday though, Manly took control in the clash of the
big men in the oppressive heat and never let go.
began in the front row with Phil Daley, Mal Cochrane
and Englishman Kevin Ward. And it spread right
through the side.
|The back division took
full advantage of the up-front domination.
Like five-eighth Cliff Lyons who wiped away
the sad memory of a year earlier by walking
away with the Clive Churchill Medal for best
player on the field.
lost any chance in 1986 when Lyons was sent
off early in the second half of the
semi-final against Balmain.
His brilliant first-half effort
against the Raiders, which included the first
try of the game, more than made up for that
Lyons seemed to have so much
time and space to do things with the ball. He
continually set the Manly backs alight
stepping, dummying or rounding up defenders
with his pace.
try came in the 27th minute when he shook off a chest
high tackle from his opposite Chris O'Sullivan after
a Manly scrum win, stepped inside Gary Belcher and
beat Gary Coyne to the line.
could have given the Eagles two more first-half
tries. After a 70-metre burst he found Noel Cleal in
support and Cleal put Des Hasler under the posts. But
the final pass was ruled forward.
made a similar run late in the half but his re-verse
pass to Michael O'Connor was put down.
Eagles actually could have scored four more tries
than the two on the scoreboard. A pass from Paul
Vautin to deal was also ruled forward in the second
half and Hasler dropped the ball in a desperate dive
for the line in the right corner.
it was two tries to one, 18 points to eight. Michael
O'Connor may have been offside when he scored from
Dale Shearer's kick. But it didn't matter as much as
why Canberra allowed Shearer an eternity to put in
this fast, open grand final was a tribute to the
players who battled it out in
conditions which would have had cricketers calling
for extra drinks.
|The heat obviously
affected some of the big men. Sam Backo
wasn't near as effective as he has been. But
others, like Kevin Ward, did not seem to
notice. Ward's contribution, and the back-up
he received from Daley, cannot be
musclebound Englishman had come from the cold
of Castleford to probably the most extreme
heat ever experienced on grand final day. He
never wilted. His defence, valuable yardage
gained in attack, and incredible appetite for
work was amazing under the conditions.
The Canberra pack seemed to lack
his intensity.Another statement by Vautin on
the dais also rang true on the day.
"It was a fairytale story
for Canberra but unfortunately for them we
ripped out the last page of the
fairytale." Indeed, that's what
has there been such a sentimental favorite on the big
day. Despite being an out-of-town side their cheers
as the teams were introduced far outweighed Manly's,
the side most people love to hate.
intensity we had seen in recent weeks from the
Raiders was missing. Maybe that was because of the
extreme heat. Maybe it was because of their grand
final inexperience. Maybe it was a legacy of their
sudden public adulation and incredible pressure of
the build-up, something they had been shielded from
they never seemed in the hunt, even though they
launched some exciting raids in the second half.
Raiders were not without their star performers,
though. O'Sullivan never gave an inch except for his
missed tackle on Lyons. He was rewarded with a
touchdown of his own. Prop Brent Todd toiled hard
with his crook ankle, along with halfback Ivan Henjak
and skipper Dean Lance.
their match-winners received few opportunities. Big
Mal Meninga, damaging prop Backo and fullback Gary
Belcher rarely set the SCG alight. Simply, the Manly
defence gave them little opportunity.
centre Peter Jackson who was best of the Canberra
backs after recovering from a heavy knock, courtesy
of a Ron Gibbs cruncher early in the game.
play was open, a welcome change from the dour
struggles in past grand finals. And the Eagles had
pace when it counted. But it was defence and forward
power which gave them their first title for nine
years, making them the most successful Manly side in
the club's history.
was sentiment all round. For Don Furner, the man who
brought Canberra into the competition, it was a sad
ending. For his partner Wayne Bennett, the tactical
brains behind the side, it was also a disappointing
the controversial announcement mid-season that he was
defecting back to Brisbane, the bond between Bennett
and his players became stronger. They would like to
have sent him north in style.
many felt Manly coach Bob Fulton deserved the victory
lap more than all. It was his third attempt as a
coach. Third time lucky.
there be anything more appropriate than the SCG
bathing one of its greatest heroes in glory on its
that was one fairytale which did come true.
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