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Match Report - Round 2 2005

Mindful Monaghan inspires a Sea Eagles feast

By Brad Walter - www.smh.com.au
21 March 2005

Sea Eagles 46 Sharks 20

Manly skipper Michael Monaghan yesterday inspired a 12-man Sea Eagles side to a crushing defeat of Cronulla in an ill-tempered match at Brookvale Oval, despite being unable to train last week because of a hip injury.

While the main focus after the match was John Hopoate's 30th-minute send-off, the grit and determination shown by Monaghan and his team suggests the Sea Eagles are in for a good year.

Just minutes after Hopoate's dismissal, veteran centre Terry Hill hobbled from the field with a hamstring problem, and it later emerged he was almost ruled out before kick-off after sustaining the injury in the warm-up.

Monaghan, who scored two tries and had a hand in most of Manly's six others, was also forced from the field during the second half but later returned and said he had merely been battling cramps. But he revealed he had also been battling a hip problem sustained in last weekend's defeat of the Warriors.

"I just landed wrong in a kick and hadn't been able to train all week so I was a bit underdone," Monaghan said. "I was pretty disappointed with how I played against the Warriors so it was better today, but we're not getting too carried away."

Ahead 24-0 when Hopoate was given his marching orders, the Sea Eagles lost their way temporarily but came out in the second half and blew Cronulla off the park. In addition to the loss, the Sharks had lock Greg Bird placed on report for a dangerous throw, while skipper David Peachey and centre Ryan McGoldrick were sin-binned.

"If you don't play well you get frustrated and you give penalties away," Cronulla coach Stuart Raper said. "I thought maybe some [of referee Paul Simpkins'] interpretations were a little bit different to what I saw, as in consistency, in the ruck area. It would have been a great example of when to use the interchange ref today."

But before Hopoate's dismissal, Manly were playing an impressive brand of disciplined football and always appeared headed for a big win. With Monaghan and five-eighth Michael Witt kicking deep and often early in the tackle count, the Sea Eagles' tactics were simple but effective; pin Cronulla down their own end and wait for mistakes.

The Manly players, who last week could be heard slowly counting to three in defence before releasing their Warriors opponents, were yesterday calling for the ball carrier to offload in tackles to a teammate directly behind him in a safe position.

The ploy caught the defence unawares on several occasions and was responsible for at least one try when Monaghan slipped a ball close to the Sharks' line for fullback Brett Stewart to stroll over and score in the 21st minute.

Monaghan also put in the kick from which second-rower Anthony Watmough scored in the 15th minute and was responsible for both of the Sea Eagles' other first-half tries. But the Hopoate incident clearly rattled them and by half-time their lead had been cut to 24-16.

"We certainly didn't handle it well, we gave away three quick tries, but half-time was pretty good for us," Monaghan said. "We made some little adjustments and I think we showed in the second half you can still keep your defence in order even though we were a man short."

Again it was Monaghan who showed his teammates the way, scoring in the 43rd minute to swing momentum back Manly's way, and when McGoldrick was sin-binned 17 minutes later for repeatedly holding down too long the game took another dramatic turn.

Sea Eagles utility Shayne Dunley scored almost immediately and then when Watmough grabbed his second try, Peachey exploded, telling Simpkins: "You're cruelling us."

With the Cronulla captain sin-binned, too, the game was as good as over but there was still time for former Test back-rower Steve Menzies to grab his 150th try and Dunley to be put on report for a lifting tackle on Peachey that sparked a full-time melee.

"There was a lot of intensity out there and it obviously got the better of a few players but we just stuck pretty solid and focused on what we needed to do," Monaghan said. "Obviously the Sharks didn't handle it as well. I'm pretty happy with the way the boys responded and I thought it was a sign of the toughness we've developed in the off-season."

Manly Sea Eagles 46
Tries: Monaghan 3, Watmough 2, Stewart, Dunley, Menzies.
Goals: Witt 7.


Cronulla Sharks 20
Tries: Aitken, Covell, Vagana, Simmons.
Goals: Covell 2

at Brookvale Oval.

20 March 2005

Referee: Paul Simpkins

Crowd: 14,031
.
.

TEAM:

Brett Stewart;
Scott Donald,
Terry Hill,
Paul Stephenson,
John Hopoate;
Michael Witt,
Michael Monaghan (c);
Daniel Heckenberg,
Chad Randall,
Brent Kite
Ben Kennedy,
Anthony Watmough,
Steve Menzies,

Bench:
Luke Williamson,
Kylie Leuluai,
Shayne Dunley,
Sam Harris.