Although this was a game involving two Clubs sitting at the wrong end of the competition ladder if previous encounters were anything to go by an entertaining and tough game was on offer.
The Magpies line up was subjected to a bit of a reshuffle with Cassiano Aiga moving from the wing to fullback after the withdrawal of Rhys Lenarduzzi who has succumbed to a nagging injury. Amanono Tovio was called into the squad to take the vacant wing position. David Harris was moved to the interchange bench with Leivaha Pulu coming into the starting line up.
It was a beautiful day at Campbelltown and it did not take Manly long to make the most of the perfect playing conditions. In the 11th minute they received a penalty after putting sustained pressure on the Magpies defense. With good field position the ball was switched from the open to the blind side which caught the Magpies short. Their wing three quarter Michael Chapman showed a good turn of speed to reach the try line before the cover defense got to him. The conversion was waved away. Manly 4 Wests 0.
In the 14th minute, with ball in hand, Wests went on the attack but a jolting tackle forced the ball loose. In the next play, Manly again attacked the blind side which paid immediate dividends when hooker Terrence Seuseu sprinted some 35 metres to score near the posts. Scott Blanch made no mistake with this one, increasing his teams lead to 10 points to 0.
It was about this time when Wests Captain Rocky Trimarchi left the field with an arm injury. His replacement was in the form of David Harris who has been playing well for several weeks.
Manly continued to dominate but the Magpies scrambling defense held them out at the end of a number of promising raids. What could not be defended was the Manlys next try. It came after their fullback Scott Blanch showed a clean pair of heels, sprinting deep into Magpie territory. He put in a kick which landed mid field, close to the Magpies try line. After collecting the ball, it was passed to a support player, who slipped over allowing the ball to roll into his own in goal area. Scott Blanch, who had followed his kick, simply dived onto the loose ball. His conversion insured his team held a handy 16 points to 0 lead after only 21 minutes of play. It was obvious that Wests needed to score before half time whilst preventing more points coming from the opposition. Around the 30 minute mark the momentum swung towards the Magpies who started to display the type of football they put on the previous week.
The Magpies set up play on the visitors 20 metre line after Manly were penalised for an an infringement in the play the ball. The hit up was taken by Soni Passa, who made good ground before off loading to his front row partner David Fifita. Fifita carried the ball and several defenders with him close to the try line before off loading, one handed to five eight Marc Russell who scored alongside the posts. Fifita kicked the goal to reduce Manlys lead to just 10 points.
Within minutes Wests were in the thick of it again. Centre three quarter Taqele Naiyavavoro and prop forward Soni Passa charged head on into the opposition. This was followed by lock forward Josh Davis who picked out Amanono Tovio who had backed up the big fellow. Tovio weaved his way through Manlys defense before he threw a flat pass to Andrew Everingham who sprinted to the corner for an inspirational try. Fifita's conversion attempt faded away at the last minute. Manly 16 Wests 10.
Wests third try came in the 37th minute. On the back of a penalty, Wests forwards carried the ball to Manlys 15 metre line. After feigning to pass the ball to the open side, a clever pass was delivered to Taqele Naiyavavoro who used his strength to burrow his way over the line for a great individual try. Fifita took the two points to level the score at 16 points all.
In the 40th minute, Wests received another penalty adjacent to Manlys goal posts. With time running out, a decision was taken to go for the two points. Fifita did not let his mates down when he put his side in front for the first time 18 points to 16.
During the break, Wests Magpies head coach Leo Epifania stressed the need for the team to attack around the play the ball area before giving their backs a go at the opposition. He also spoke of the teams courage after coming back from 16 points down.
The early exchanges in the second half were dominated by very solid defense, with both teams trying to gain the upper hand. In the 9th minute, Wests second row forward Leivaha Pulu called for the ball close to Manlys try line. With defenders all around him he took the option of kicking the ball along the ground into Manlys in goal area. His second row partner David Harris followed the kick through before diving on the ball to claim the try. Fifita continued his fine kicking display to take his team further into the lead 24 points to 16.
Play settled with Manly putting on several attacking raids, but the Magpies drew on their reserves to hold them out. In the 30th minute, Wests five eight Marc Russell followed Leivaha Pulu's earlier example by rolling the ball into Manlys in goal area. Unfortunately for the visitors, they knocked the ball on which allowed Marc Russell to score his teams fifth try. Fifitas conversion attempt hit the post, but Wests still held a handy 28 to 16 lead.
With all the running, Wests were soon over for another try. In the 35th minute, Manly were trying to run the ball out from inside their own thirty metre area when one of their passes was intercepted by Wests second row forward Leivaha Pulu. Pulu then ran untouched to the tryline. Fifitas conversion put the boys in black and white into a match winning lead 34 to 16.
With time running out, Manly put in a chip kick which rolled in touch on the Magpies 40 metre line. After winning the scrum, the ball was passed to Taqele Naiyavavoro who sprinted some 55 metres down the touch line to score his second try of the day. Not to be outdone, Fifita kicked a fine goal from the touchline. The final scoreline read Wests Magpies 40 Manly 16. On another note it was pleasing to see Dayne Craig take the field in the second half after a long lay off due to a knee injury.
Next game – Round 23 Wests Magpies vs. Cronulla Sharks 1pm Saturday 13 August 2011 Henson Park, Newtown. PLEASE NOTE THE EARLIER KICK OFF TIME!
Scorers for the Magpies – 2 tries each to Taqele Naiyaravoro and Mark Russell with 1 try each to Andrew Everingham, Leivaha Pulu and David Harris. David Fifita kicked 5 conversions and 1 penalty.
Scorers for Manly – Scott Blanch 1 try and 2 conversions, with tries to Michael Chapman and Terence Seuseu.
Leos best three – Taqele Naiyavavoro, Mitch Achurch and Troy Sullivan
Players player medallion – Soni Passa.