Men’s Premier Division MOTW: Manly fightback finishes Dragons
Written by Michael Shillito.
Manly-Warringah Wolves vs. St George Dragons – Weldon Oval on Saturday, July 28, 2018.
In fourth place is Manly. The Wolves have built their success in 2018 on the back of a home ground advantage at Weldon Oval, where they remain undefeated this season. But to maintain that unbeaten record they had to come from behind against a St George side that was coming into the game with a four-game winning streak on the board.
Normally the first quarter at Weldon is a bruising encounter, but not this time. Instead, it was a shootout as both sides looked to get the jump on the other, only to be pegged back. There were lead changes and momentum swings during an entertaining opening term that saw the big forwards looking dangerous and the running midfielders given license to create the play. Six goals to five in the opening quarter saw the Dragons lead by five points at quarter-time.
The speed of the first quarter wasn’t sustainable, and the game took a step slower in the second term. The physical pressure was stepped up, as both sides bolstered their defence and worked to stop the free-flowing play they had allowed their opponent to perform in the first term. But again it was the Dragons who had the edge, with two goals to one for the quarter and a 10-point half time lead.
A fascinating contest was unfolding during the premiership quarter. The Dragons needed the win. After a slow start to the season they had won the last four but had to keep winning to keep Manly and the top five within striking distance. Riding high on form, their big names were still picking up plenty of the ball and the scoring chances were mounting up.
But the Wolves also had some top players on fire and ready to clear the ball out of trouble. Little separated the two sides for much of the quarter, but a late surge by the Dragons saw them win the quarter by four goals to two and lead by 19 points at three quarter time.
The Dragons should have been safe from there, but as the last quarter got under way, the momentum of the game had visibly shifted. The Wolves kept the ball inside their forward-50 for considerable periods of time during the last quarter, and kept peppering the goals. Inaccuracy would count against the Wolves, as ten times they only drew a single flag from the goal umpire.
The Dragons got one goal during the final term, which gave them some breathing space, but the Wolves kept coming. Their third goal for the quarter gave them the lead for the first time since the first term, and the final siren shortly afterwards kept the unbeaten streak at Weldon going.
For most of the day the Wolves were in trouble, but Sam Wicks kept a flicker of hope alive as he finished with four goals. James Brain, Connor Pettersson and Levi Brain were also standout performers for Manly. It had been a remarkable win, one that looked out of reach for much of the afternoon. But in the end, the Weldon fortress remains intact, as does the Wolves’ place within the top five.
Alex Wynn, Connor Flanagan and Tim Coenen impressed for St George. But the Dragons will be disappointed to drop this game after leading for most of the afternoon. In the end, the quest to extend the winning streak was not to be, and with the loss, their hopes of appearing in this year’s finals series is officially over.
MANLY-WARRINGAH – 5.3 6.6 9.7 12.17 (89)
ST GEORGE – 6.2 8.4 12.8 13.8 (86)
MANLY GOALS – S Wicks 4, H Ellem 2, M Rogers 2, T Armitage, E Burke, A Butler, C Pettersson
ST GEORGE GOALS – M Saunders 2, A Wynn 2, B Jones 2, N Ryan 2, E Maher, D Hoban, D Donohue, T Coenen, C Flanagan
MANLY BEST – J Brain, C Pettersson, L Brain, R Wearne, S Wicks, E Burke
ST GEORGE BEST – A Wynn, C Flanagan, T Coenen, D Donohue, B Jones, E Maher