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Match Report - Round 5 2004

Manly give themselves half a chance

By Brad Walter -

12 Apr '04

Bulldogs 28 Manly 26

After watching Andrew Walker's sideline conversion attempt to level the scores in the dying seconds of yesterday's match at Telstra Stadium fall agonisingly short, Manly coach Des Hasler declared: "You don't beat the Bulldogs by kicking goals."

With winger Chris Hicks scoring the Sea Eagles' fifth second-half try in the 79th minute to reduce the Bulldogs' lead to two points, NRL officials were on the sideline ensuring the timekeepers from both clubs were aware of the extra-time rules.

But, according to Hasler, who later rattled off a list of scores from the second half of each Manly game this season, the result should never have come down to a goal kick.

"I'm proud of the effort, we played with plenty of spirit and showed plenty of courage today . . . but at the same time we've got to be careful that we don't walk away from this game satisfied," Hasler said.

"It's unacceptable and the players know that. There's no good losses at this club and the club won't accept a good loss."

A harsh assessment, perhaps, from Hasler - a former primary school teacher - but a fair one.

At half-time, the Sea Eagles seemed to have little hope of victory after the Bulldogs had raced to a comfortable 16-0 lead.

As they had done against North Queensland, the Roosters and Cronulla, Manly dominated the scoring in the second term. The problem is the Sea Eagles' only win was against the Cowboys in round one when they came back from 14-0 down in Townsville.

Manly captain Steve Menzies said: "I think we tend to come off our line a bit quicker and everything is a bit more up tempo in the second 40 minutes when we're totally focussed because of what happened in the first 40 minutes. It's probably a mental thing."

Even when they were down to 12 men midway through the first half, when makeshift hooker Tony Grimaldi was in the sin bin, the Bulldogs appeared to be in control of the match.

Jamaal Lolesi had already scored the opening try when Grimaldi was given his marching orders in the 18th minute, but Manly failed to capitalise on the overlap.

With Hazem El Masri having fallen seven short of the world record of 38 consecutive goals when he failed to convert Lolesi's 11th-minute try, Walker had the opportunity to reduce the Sea Eagles' deficit by two points following Grimaldi's sin-binning.

But Hasler advised his players to keep the pressure on, saying later: "If you think we lost this game because we didn't take that kick, you're kidding yourself. What about the four tries we should have scored?"

One of those missed opportunities occurred when second-rower Anthony Watmough lost the ball reaching out for the tryline, and the Bulldogs quickly responded through Andrew Ryan at the opposite end in the 24th minute.

Bulldogs replacement Roy Asotasi crossed in the 29th minute to give his side a 16-0 lead, but it was a crunching tackle by the 22-year-old Kiwi forward on Luke Williamson that underscored the first-half dominance of the home side.

Even referee Steve Clark was impressed, calling: "That's dominant, all right."

A horrific leg injury suffered by Bulldogs five-eighth Johnathan Thurston, who separated his tibia from his fibula, coincided with the drop-off in intensity by the Bulldogs, with skipper Steve Price saying that the back line lost its rhythm.

Manly's fightback began two minutes into the second term when Menzies put Watmough over and, despite El Masri responding with a try of his own in the 47th minute, the momentum had shifted away from the Bulldogs.

A double to Scott Donald in the 55th and 60th minutes was separated only by Menzies' try, levelling the scores at 22-22, and even after Lolesi crossed in the 67th minute to regain the lead for his side, Manly did not give up. But, in the end, it was all too little too late.

"I know we can make a noise in this competition, and I'd like to ask our fans to be patient," Hasler said.

(J Lolesi 2 A Ryan R Asotasi H El Masri tries H El Masri 4 goals) bt

(S Donald 2 A Watmough S Menzies C Hicks tries A Walker 3 goals)

Telstra Stadium.

Referee: S Clark.

Crowd: 25,771.


1 - Andrew WALKER
2 - Scott DONALD
3 - Albert TORRENS
4 - Steve MENZIES
5 - Chris HICKS
7 - Michael MONAGHAN
9 - Chad RANDALL
11- Sam HARRIS
12- Nathan TUTT

14- Kylie LEULUAI
15 - Kane CLEAL
16- Anthony WATMOUGH
17- Shane DUNLEY