Friday night at Brookie called for a bumper crowd and a gallant 5 day turnaround to right the ship and send the DesDogs packing. What would unfold?
Peter Hiku: Another safe assured performance taking the kicks, but time and again seemed to stifle any attacking flow when chiming into the line. Oh how badly do we miss our match winner B. Stewart.
Jorge Taufau: Never disappoints, but for a guy who makes so many damaging line breaks just not given enough ball.
Steve Matai: Broken, battered and bruised from NZ but still gave it his all as always and right on the spot to score the levelling try.
Jamie Lyon: Stung by that crushing conversion miss in NZ, kicked 5 perfect goals including the critical leveller with 60 seconds on the clock to send us into an exhilarating golden point.
David Williams: Ran with vigour but we need wingers to follow the Hoppa senior mould and be more involved.
Kieran Foran: Came into his own in those last incredible 20 mins throwing his brain and body at everything. Some are filthy on his back chat that handed the Dogs the win, but none of us above him in the stand were any less vocal in our disgust, so who are we to criticise his agony over such a monumental referee howler?
Daly Cherry-Evans: Took ownership of the 2nd half with 2 great tries and oh so nearly pulled off what would have been a fairytale field goal.
Glenn Stewart: Report card says minor improvement. But where, oh where has that match winning attack gone?
Justin Horo: Never fail Horo never put a foot wrong.
Anthony Watmough: The opening seconds howler handed the Dogs a 6-0 gift start, but from there until the critical match ending cork was the usual monumental workload of big metres and crunching tackles.
Brenton Lawrence: Despite an early leg injury never stopped with 107 metres and 33 tackles in his 47 min spell.
Matt Ballin: The usual 42 tackles, but again not enough impact with the ball from dummy half.
Brent Kite: The Landcruiser threw the rig at everything, particularly in those last spellbinding 20 minutes.
James Hasson: Showed enough in just 14 minutes to prove he MUST be given way more game time. Forwards win matches and it starts up front. Time to fully blood him.
Tom Symonds: Can't help thinking he may well have got no more than 10 mins had Choc not been injured, which once again, leaves a giant question mark. Why is our attacking buy of the year now constantly confined to being the most badly wasted unused weapon?
Jamie Buhrer: Great offload for a crucial try and did his best in his 36 min spell, but I still have no idea what his role is playing as a lightweight floating back rower, and I sense I'm not alone.
George Rose: The big man threw the shop at the Dogs racking up 100 busting metres in just 37 mins.
In the last 8 rounds we've come to a stumbling halt of just 2 wins, 1 draw, 1 bye and 4 gutting losses. Crushingly 3 of those 4 losses at our once unbeatable Fortress Brookie (albeit to top teams). Yet amazingly, god knows how, we are STILL precariously clinging to 4th spot. Once again we were flat as a tack (in attack) for much of the match but if there's anything good to salvage from the wreckage it's the knowledge that we are never ever beaten, twice coming back from seemingly impossible 18-0 and 30-12 crippling deficits, only to be shockingly robbed at the death (see Ugly).
This game not only deserved, but badly needed 16,000 plus screaming fans. Was it the threat of rain? The usual threat of winter cold v live tv coverage? The loss in NZ? Missing Brett? I can't figure it, but whatever the reason a poor crowd of 12,000 was very, very disappointing. (Full credit though to those who did turn up and scream themselves hoarse in the last 20 enthralling minutes).
Where to start? Here's a list of 10 points:
1. Shayne Hayne MONUMENTAL ERROR NO 1: normally the best ref in the game, how is it that blind freddy, the entire crowd, all the players, and all the commentators on both tv and radio UNANIMOUSLY agreed that Reynolds was well short of the line in the 56th minute, yet Hayne declared it a try? Even the Dogs players couldn't believe it. Even Dessie knew it. Yet to make matters worse how could two video refs in the box decide they would not overrule the decision? A truly shocking decision that cost us a critical 6 points and gifted the Dogs a crippling 30-12 lead.
2. Shayne Hayne MONUMENTAL ERROR NO 2: normally the coolest ref head in the game, how is it possible that Hayne could fall for one of the grubbiest little cheats in the game when Josh Reynolds literally somersaulted himself in the extra time tackle to con one of the most utterly disgraceful penalties in living memory. Not only did the appalling decision inject us with a sudden death penalty, but Hodkinson's lethal needle was all but ensured after Hayne marched Foran 10 metres for back chatting. He may as well have told Hodkinson to walk up to the posts and chip it over from in front.
3. When the hell are these season changing decisions going to be eliminated? How hard is it for the video refs, with the benefit of looking down on the play just as us fans in the stand and the commentators calling the action have, to urgently grab their mike and say "HANG ON SHAYNE, JOSH REYNOLDS FULLY MILKED THAT PENALTY, REVERSE THE DECISION NOW". Why is that so hard?
4. Sometimes us maroon and white tragics might only see things through somewhat rose tinted glasses, but when radio stations like 2GB and their callers Andrew Moore, Blocker Roach and Darryl Brohman (not exactly known for their affection to us) all UNANIMOUSLY agree that the Hayne decisions were howlers of the highest possible order, you know it's about as rank bottom as it gets.
5. Ditto channel 9. Ray Warren on Triple M this morning also in full agreement Reynolds TOTALLY milked it.
6. Reynolds and Ennis. Two of the most annoying little cheats to put a blight on this great game. Always looking to deceive, questioning decisions, delaying, holding down, wrestling, leg pulling. Or now in Reynolds case pulling off the Greg Inglis flip forward in the tackle. I can't wait for Choc to smack them backwards when we hopefully exact revenge on them come semis time. When is a ref going to stand up to Ennis and march him to the bin for his constant and blatant time wasting whinges?
7. The print media's gutless and useless mis reporting of matches. How is it possible that both papers today COMPLETELY IGNORE the fact the Dogs were handed the match? Were they watching? Or is it just convenient to dismiss any injustice to a Manly team? God forbid reporting the truth.
8. When is the NRL going to get their act together and CHANGE GOLDEN POINT? For years it's been an utter disgrace that games are decided by the sudden death fluke of field goals, but obviously its the worse possible scenario when a game is decided by a penalty, and of course it gets no worse than when it's a horrifyingly incorrect one. There is only one decision, GOLDEN POINT MUST GO AND BE REPLACED BY A DRAW, and in semi's it must be golden try over a full 10 minutes of extra time removing sudden death rubbish.
9. The captains challenge. Why is it so hard to install? Even if it's just one per half. Lyon could have signalled captains challenge and the Reynolds lethal penalty could should have been reviewed and cancelled.
10. Ultimately one of the most brilliant gutsiest comebacks in recent years deserved the ultimate grandstand finish, but to have a gallant home team, roaring down the finish straight like Black Caviar, enthralling it's loyal screaming supporters, literally robbed of the chance to win the game by a disgraceful cheating penalty is a diabolical crime of the highest order, and an UGLY UGLY UGLY result.
Where do we stand now?
Rd 7 - loss Souths home
Rd 8 - win Saints away
Rd 9 - loss Roosters home
Rd 10 - draw Melbourne away
Rd 11 - win Canberra home
Rd 12 - bye
Rd 13 - loss Warriors away
Rd 14 - loss Dogs home
Somehow as stated, we are still clinging to 4th place. The bye gives us another 2 next week, and then we need to get Brett back on the paddock and steer the ship back to safety. The Roosters away is a tough but totally achievable starting point, followed by must win games against Parra, Cowboys, Gold Coast, Tigers and Parra again.
Tough times never last but tough teams (and supporters) do. It's long season, let's stay solid and cement that big top 4 prize.