MANLY demolished a woeful Cronulla 40-12 at Brookvale Oval yesterday but the Sea Eagles' thoughts were soon 1000km away. Within minutes of fulltime yesterday, Manly were speaking about next Monday night's blockbuster against Melbourne Storm at Etihad Stadium.
The Storm and Sea Eagles have built one of the great rivalries and Monday night's clash could be one of the games of the season.
"Melbourne are always a tough assignment, particularly coming off a loss [against Gold Coast on Friday night]," Manly coach Des Hasler said.
"I am sure the stats are low about them losing back-to-back matches. But we will go down there with plenty of momentum. Judging by past Manly-Melbourne games, it will be tough."
Melbourne will start narrow favourites but Manly are ready to rumble.
"Manly and Melbourne are always competitive games," Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran said. "There is a lot of rivalry there. You can expect a pretty physical encounter."
Melbourne will know they are in for a fierce battle after watching Manly dismantle Cronulla yesterday.
The Sea Eagles weren't at their very best but still posted 40 points against the bitterly disappointing Sharks.
Manly scored 30 points in 24 minutes during the first half to blitz the Sharks, who went into the match on the back of a win over Parramatta last week.
Foran was exceptional, as was Manly centre Jamie Lyon, who is certain to be a NSW centre this year.
The second half was sloppy because the result was a foregone conclusion and Manly had Melbourne on their minds.
"We watched Cronulla closely and in all the games they defended well," Hasler said. "We wanted to be really patient and slowly build. It was an arm-wrestle early. It was like both teams were on the same page."
Foran was all class. He seems to have time and options. He injured a shoulder but should be fit to tackle Melbourne. He should also be chosen in the New Zealand squad for the upcoming Test against Australia in Melbourne.
Lyon was fabulous. He cut Cronulla apart down their right-hand side and kicked two sideline conversions.
Manly were denied a try in the second half when video referee Chris Ward ruled an obstruction.
It was a baffling decision and another example of referees and video referees over-playing their hand this year.
Asked why the try was denied, Hasler said: "I'm not really sure."
TeamPts1. South Sydney182. Sydney Roosters163. Melbourne154. Manly135. Newcastle126. Brisbane107. Cronulla108. Gold Coast109. Canberra1010. Penrith811. North Queensland812. St George Illawarra813. Canterbury-Bankstown814. Parramatta615. Warriors416. Wests Tigers4