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Match Report - Round 3 2005

Kennedy adds cutting edge to Eagles

By Greg Prichard - 28/3/2005

Manly 25 Melbourne 18

Ben Kennedy should not have played yesterday, but the word "not" remains outside of his vocabulary. After being unable to train all week because of a torn calf muscle in his right leg, he dragged himself onto Brookvale Oval for Manly and led the forwards the "BK" way as the Sea Eagles landed on top of the competition table for the first time since 1997, the year of their most recent grand final appearance.

If there was one moment that summed up the veteran representative star's commitment it came in the 69th minute, when Manly were hanging on to a 24-18 lead and Melbourne were attacking their line.

Storm lock Dallas Johnson charged the ball forward and was almost cut in half by a two-man tackle from lock Kennedy and prop Daniel Heckenberg. The ball came loose and the chance was gone and Manly went on to win, halfback Michael Monaghan finally putting it beyond doubt when he landed a field goal with his third attempt, two minutes from full-time.

Kennedy is renowned for his commitment and having him around is helping to bring out the best of the younger players at Manly, including second-rower Anthony Watmough and fullback Brett Stewart, who each had strong games yesterday.

"He's just incredible," Watmough said afterwards. "He's got so much courage. If half of the rest of us in the team had as much courage as he's got, we'd never lose."

Stewart added: "It's awesome having him around, with his class and experience. He revs the guys up. He's always got something to say and it's always the smarts of the game."

Kennedy has missed a significant number of games through injury in recent years, but each time it must have been a devil of a problem because the real story with him is his ability to play injured. He proved that ability again yesterday with a marvellous display of mind over matter as he played with a type of injury that could not be covered with a painkilling injection.

"I tried to train a bit on Saturday, but it was pretty sore," Kennedy said. "I iced it and it felt pretty ordinary, but when I woke up this morning it didn't feel too bad. The doctor told me I couldn't make it much worse by playing and I knew we had the bye next week, so I thought I'd play.

"It's nothing, really, just a little tear in the calf."

Manly coach Des Hasler tried to nurse Kennedy through the game by giving him an extended break during the first half, but Kennedy then went back out and played the entire second half.

Melbourne scored the first six points and Manly the next 18, before the Storm came back to register the next 12 to set up a dramatic finish. The Storm may have gone on to lose, but their fullback - Billy Slater - had provided the most exciting moment of the game by taking off with that trademark speed to swoop on a kick from halfback Matt Orford, somehow cleanly collecting the rolling ball along the way to scoring.

Melbourne could not thread together enough moments like that, however, and they were beaten in the forward battle.

After winning in each of the first two rounds only to end up smothered in bad publicity because of the exploits of the since suspended and retired John Hopoate, the Sea Eagles will get full value out of yesterday's win against the team that had topped the table after two rounds.

"We want to make Brookvale Oval a fortress again and we're on the way to doing that," Hasler said. "We brought Ben Kennedy to the club because he's got the ability to lift people and he did that today. Plus, the confidence and leadership skills of our captain, Michael Monaghan, really came through today as well. I thought they were two of the highlights of the game."

Halfback Monaghan, in the tradition of Manly captains, repeatedly quizzed decisions by the referee, in this case Steve Clark, but said he didn't think he had gone overboard.

"There is a line you have to draw and then try not to step over and I think I handled it OK," he said.

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy said his team had come off a soft run to start the season after two easy wins over struggling opponents and that he knew it was going to be much tougher yesterday.

Asked about Manly's chances in the long run this year, Bellamy replied: "I think they might surprise a few people."

Manly Sea Eagles 25
Tries: Heckenberg, Randall, Dunley, Stewart.
Goals: Witt 4.
Field Goals: Monaghan 1.

Crowd: 13,682

Melbourne Storm 18
Tries: Bell, Cronk, Slater
Goals: Smith 3.

at Brookvale Oval.

27 March 2005

Referee: Steve Clark

Crowd: 15,470


Brett Stewart
Scott Donald
Steve Mattai
Paul Stephenson
Mitch Creary
Michael Witt
Michael Monaghan
Ben Kennedy
Anthony Watmough
Steve Menzies
Daniel Heckenberg
Chad Randall
Brent Kite
Luke Williamson
Kylie Leuluai
Sam Harris
Shayne Dunley