‘Some socially-distancing fans were allowed to return to the Central Coast Stadium to replace the cardboard cut-outs’, is about the most 2020 think that I think I’ve written all season.
Brisbane Broncos, still smarting from their 59-0 loss to the Roosters last weekend, were the opponents for the Manly Sea Eagles who lost narrowly to the Paramatta Eels. Both sides came into the game on four points with one eye on achieving fourth spot on the ladder by the end of the eighty minutes.
The pundits and bookies, however, couldn’t see past a Manly win.
Brisbane were in first after just five minutes as Kotoni Staggs chased his own grubber kick from ten metres to collect and dive over to ground. Jamayne Isaako added the conversion for the perfect Broncos start.
The second Brisbane try came on sixteen when a high kick from Milford was taken easily by Xavier Coates who grounded wearing the broadest of grins. As Isaako added the conversion the ghosts of the last round were already close to being exercised.
The stunning start to the game for the Broncos continued on the half hour when fast hands through the backs and centres ended up in the hands of Darius Boyd who ran from fifteen, dummied when five metres out before dropping the shoulder and getting the ball on the ground. Isaako floated his conversion between the uprights for 18-0, Brisbane bossing the game.
Two minutes after Boyd had a second try ruled out, Tevita Funa took Tom Trbojevic miss-out pass to score in the corner. The conversion was missed but the Sea Eagles were on the board and went into the interval trailing by 4-18.
Three minutes after the restart and Manly were back in the game as Daly Cherry-Evans took a short pass as he ran the wraparound to perfectly execute a training ground move and run the angle to score. Reuben Garrick put his kick straight between the uprights for 18-10. The Sea Eagles were right back in the game.
Moving the ball from left to right on fifty-eight the Sea Eagles were in again as Tom Trbojevic found Moses Suli in space on the wing to cross in the right-hand corner. Garrick kept his conversion between the sticks and the margin was down to just two points.
A Garrick penalty on sixty-four levelled the scores as Brisbane seemed to be running with their tank on empty. A second penalty from Garrick on seventy-two gave Manly the lead for the first time in the game.
Brisbane completed the game on the front foot with a rare foray into the Manly half but the defence held strong as the Sea Eagles held on for a two point win.
In the archetypal 'game of two halves' the Broncos ripped up the form book and bossed the first half, but a steady and measured performance from the Sea Eagles saw them come back and take the points with an equally stunning second half performance. Those fans in the stadium spent the whole game watching just one half of the field as Manly went sixth in the table, ahead of the rest of the games in the round.
Manly Sea Eagles: Trbojevic T, Funa (T), Parker, Suli (T), Garrick (4G), Walker, Cherry-Evans (T), Paseka, Levi, Taupau, Thompson, Waddell, Trbojevic J. Subs: Croker, Fonua-Blake, Keppie, Gosiewski.
Brisbane Broncos: Isaako (3G), Coates (T), Staggs (T), Boyd (T), Farnworth, Milford, Croft, Lodge, Paix, Haas, Oates, Ofahengaue, Carrigan. Subs: Niu, Te’o, Kennedy, Flegler.
Referee: Ashley Klein.
Ground: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford.