The GF Head to Head – the Centres
The first and most obvious stat probably says a lot; Roosters Kenny Dowell and Jennings have scored 26 tries (MJ 18) and so have the Eagles pair (JL 15).
SKD v Steve Matai is a classic Kiwi v Kiwi match up. Are they competing for a World Cup position too?
The Manly left side has a tremendous record in D this season. Only a return to his stellar form where SKD scored match winning tries on multiple occasions on the way to the Roosters last GF appearance in 2010 could unsettle the Manly edge. I don’t hold any great hopes there. SKD does not seem to have anything like the same physical attributes or confidence from those extreme times for him.
Matai continues to appear wounded beyond any medical team’s capacity to repair him. Miracles are performed on a weekly basis there. On the other hand I reckon Matai’s improved composure and reading of the situation has led to this outstanding defensive record on his edge.
He came within an ankle grab of winning the match for his team in play-off round 1 v Roosters and it won’t surprise if he does it for real in the GF with this physical miss-match.
Jennings v Lyon – what’s that line about the price of admission!
These guys are two of the most gifted attacking footy players in modern day footy. Jamie Lyon has done it for so long he is probably in the all-time category. I know some people get annoyed because of his attitude to rep footy and say why pick him if he doesn’t want to be there BUT I still say if he had played in the past couple of seasons we may well have won the series. Yep and my dad is already saying if a bull had teats it would be a cow!! Enough – he is a bloody great player. Ok?
These two guys are very hard to tie down; Jennings because of his evasive capacity and blinding acceleration and Lyon through his balanced movement, footwork, awareness and ability to both pass and kick incredibly skilfully. Those differences are reflected in the tries of their wingers. Williams has 20 while Tupou has 13 but many of Tupou’s are from kicks by his halves rather than passes by his centre.
Defensively Jennings has improved this season particularly on his inside shoulder. Whatever he was playing at the Panthers he seemed to find himself backing away and being turned inside out in those days. He appears to be working in the line with teammates and more conscious of how to assist his inside defender, often Maloney. This will get a real workout with DCE Glen Stewart Lyon and Brett Stewart all probing with combination plays at this Roosters left edge with Maloney having the bulls-eye on him for certain.
Lyon and Williams are wedging madly still when under pressure. At time this is worsened by DCE backing away as they wedge in. Souths opening try was a case in point. I dare say it will feature in Manly’s practice time this week.
In team style the Eagles tend to go to their edges/centres with a plan to be creative with set pieces and a license to ad lib what they see. They get it started for their team mates as well as ice it too!
The Roosters use their centres a lot on play 2 or 3 getting out of their own end to make metres. Jennings is the ultimate capitaliser of a team fractured and on the back foot.
The Eagles will have been relieved with Lyon’s improved goal kicking last weekend.
Maybe hard to split them here but Manly probably shade their Roosters counterparts for variety in attack.