Manly v Bulldogs Ė Saturday 20th September 7.45pm Allianz Stadium
Manly come into this clash in terrible form for a side that finished the season in 2nd spot and are playing in week 2 of the Finals. They have lost 3 of their last 4 games, with 2 of those losses being by margins of 14 and 24. Their only win was at Brookvale, in a miracle last ditch escape. Itís a concern for Manly.
The Bulldogs themselves have not been setting the World on fire (until last week). They have lost 2 of their last 4 games, including a 2nd half capitulation to the Titans. They also lost 4 games straight not that long ago. But they do find themselves high on confidence coming off the back of a smashing 28-4 win against the Storm down at AAMI park.
In two games this year, they share the spoils one a piece.
Where it will be won
Finals are won with attitude and self-belief. If you have this, then it comes down to opportunities and execution.
Manly seem to have lost that self-belief at the moment, and their attitude has not been great. For Manly, their two leaders in attitude are Foran and Watmough, these are usually the guys getting the team going with a courageous tackle, †a chase down field to pin the fullback in a corner or a 20m run from nowhere. But Watmough is out suspended, so this hurts Manly. The other senior players like Stewart, Lyon and Matai need to really step up this week. If the Dogs get to an early lead, these are the troops that need to rally Manly.
Last week it was the Dogs or War against the Storm. It looked like the Dogs of the 80ís and 90ís that no matter where they finish on the table, they come to play in the Finals. The 1995 Finals series springs to mind when they came from 7th to win the Premiership.
Their attitude and intensity were the best of any of the teams that played last week, for the full 80 minutes.
The Bulldogs deserve to be favorites here. I canít believe that the side finishing 2nd is up against the side that recently lost 4 games in a row and will go in as heavy under-dogs.
For Manly to turn things around, I pinpointed the other day that they need to find that belief again. They need Cherry-Evans to take control of the game with his running and they need to defend against the kicks. Stewart must have an impact, but for these things to happen the forwards must show some grunt.
For the Bulldogs, they carry into this game a lot of confidence from last week, and the knowledge that the key to their game is ball control.
Trust me on this; you can throw form out the window. This is sudden death Finals footy. There will be nothing in this game.
Manly 20-18 (Man of the match Foran)
How can Manly cause the upset?
Predict the man of the match and score?