Manly Sea Eagles v North Queensland Cowboys
Sydney Football Stadium, 8:30pm.
Sea Eagles: Brett Stewart, Michael Robertson, Jamie Lyon (c), Steve Matai, Will Hopoate, Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Joe Galuvao, Matt Ballin, Brent Kite, Anthony Watmough, Vic Mauro, Shane Rodney. Interchange (from): Tim Robinson, Jamie Buhrer, George Rose, Tony Williams, Terence Seuseu
Cowboys: Matthew Bowen, Ashley Graham, Brent Tate, 4. Willie Tonga, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Ray Thompson, Johnathan Thurston (c), Matthew Scott (c), Aaron Payne, James Tamou, Gavin Cooper, Glenn Hall, Dallas Johnson. Interchange (from): James Segeyaro, Scott Bolton, Jason Taumalolo, Ashton Sims, Cory Paterson
The 2ND PLACED MANLY SIDE BEGIN THEIR RUN through the finals minus a few players in the aftermath of that infamous brawl at Brookvale Oval 2 weeks ago. The Cowboys would be quietly happy that Manly are not quite at full strength and it’s now or never for the boys from Townsville. Manly’s winning streak was ended last week at the hands of the Broncos but with players injured and suspended the Sea Eagles still put up a dogged fight, the kind that has seen them win numerous matches in 2011. If Manly come out fired up tonight they will be impressive to watch.
The Cowboys get Dallas Johnson back and the timing is perfect. The amount of finals experience that a player like Johnson has amassed from his time at the Melbourne Storm is going to be of such benefit to the players around him. The other man with plenty of finals experience for the Cowboys is Johnathan Thurston and a big game from him will be absolutely vital if the Cowboys are going to have any chance of advancing to week 2 of the finals series.
I’ll be willing to bet my bottom dollar that if Brett Stewart takes the field for the Sea Eagles, the Cowboys will be targeting him and his fragile knee.
Let’s get ready to rumble!
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Daly Cherry-Evans is the halfback that will be steering the Manly ship and his form thus far has been exemplary. But one must remember that he is still in his rookie year and now he enters his first NRL finals match and the question is: How will he fare? Only time will tell……..
Kieran Foran is Cherry-Evans’ halves partner and at certain time throughout the year has lifted his side to victories thanks to his own individual brilliance. Foran could be the man once again to motivate his team if they fall behind on the scoreboard.
Johnathan Thurston hasn’t regained the superb form he showed at the start of the year since he returned to the side from injury. Now would be a good time to find it Johnny! If he does, the Sea Eagles had better watch out as the smell of an upset will be in the air.
Dallas Johnson relishes finals footy and he has played many a finals game. His priceless experience will prove valuable in helping some of the younger blokes handle the rigours of a semi final played in front of 30 or 40,000 screaming fans.
Head to Head: Sea Eagles $1.42, Cowboys $2.90
Line Betting: Sea Eagles (-7.5) $1.91, Cowboys (+7.5) $1.91
The odds in this game seem just juicy enough to back Manly to cover the line. I’m more than happy to knock 2 points off it and go for Manly -5.5 because we know they are more than good enough.
Mike’s Best Bet: $109 on the Sea Eagles -5.5 @ $1.84 (Centrebet)
Starting Bank: $2000, Current Bank $2645.13
(Team lists sourced from nrl.com.au)