Manchester 87 v Penrith 39
By Tim Harper
Manchester cut loose
Sometimes a team just clicks and it becomes a wonderful fluent scoring machine for a half of rugby, totally dominating an opposing team and wrapping up a game before it’s even half over. This was that game for Manchester. Whereas the second half was a lesson that should be forever in any teams mind; you should never let dispirited opposition off the hook.
Manchester started strongly and after kicking off they turned over the visitors at the second phase of play. A couple of strong carries and Charlie Ding darted over from an unguarded ruck under the posts turning his ankle in the process. 7:0.
Penrith responded with strong runs from their weighty ponderous pack and after gaining a penalty for a side entry took the 3 points to gain a foothold in the game. It was to little avail as Manchester took control of the game and made it look all too easy from then on.
On the oppositions next attack the ever alert Alex Marchlewski intercepted an obvious pass in midfield to run in under the posts unopposed.Straight from the kick-off good offloading in open play gained good field position for Manchester. It was the visitors turn to be penalised for side entry at the ruck.Jay Saena kicked the penalty. 17:3 after 10 minutes.
From the restart Tom Fantom picked and went through an unguarded ruck and offloading, released Charlie to gain good field position. Despite a poor kick straight to an opposition player 3 metres in front, the forward momentum helped Manchester's far more mobile forwards dispossess Penrith. Playing a lovely no-contact off-loading game Jay, Charlie, and Zak combined to release Alex for his second run in, this one a bit shorter at around 40 metres. 24:3.
The much appreciated vocal support of the U15 teams from the stands, seemed to further inspire Brian (their favourite), who had been relishing throwing his considerable bulk about the pitch in both tackles and carries. Following a penalty kick to the corner he executed a lovely lineout peel and plunged over to gain the bonus point for the Home side. 31:3
Again, straight from the kick-off spreading the ball wide yielded dividends with Zak and Alex combining to release Doug Day, who appeared to have added an overdrive to his gearbox over Christmas. The opposition were left reeling and so it continued, when Chris Saena joined the lengthening list of scorers: the writer simply couldn’t keep pace with the detail….
It was turning into an incredibly well-tuned performance with all members of the pack also doing their part: from Karl Higginson doing sterling work in an unfamiliar tight-head role to the tight five ensuring good quick clearing of the tackle area, to Brodie, Chris, and Brian carrying strongly. Tom Fantom and Sion Davenport covering every blade of grass in close support and making real nuisances of themselves. Tom also hooking one against the head with the scrum stable (now that’s a rare treat!).
Penrith, however, were eventually “let off their coach” at around 35 minutes in. Two consecutive handling errors by Manchester in their own half finally waking them up with the gift of good attacking position. They responded with a well supported try after exerting pressure for half a dozen phases. Their kicker ‘sadly fluffing’ a relatively easy conversion.
That phase perhaps just comparative in nature: Jay Saena was in the process of setting a record in this match, I suspect. 100% kicking from a dozen efforts ; How often does anyone do that? With Doug Day and Richard Mccartney also kicking well in open field and being accomplished place kickers themselves, Manchester really are blessed in this facet of the game.
Manchester reasserted their dominance before the half was up. Alex decided to make another interception before using his support. On this occasion it was Zak’s turn to run in another (converted) try.
Jay then showed that he has a lovely step and swerve and has pace to spare by leaving his support a little distant. So a good time to bounce off a would-be tackler using his power before a lovely offload to Doug Day in throttle-open overdrive. Inspirational stuff: even Sam James was impressed (and as many saw the previous night he can play a bit!)
So 59-8 at the half, a fairly familiar sort of score at Manchester, but many a long character-building year since we weren’t on the other end of it!
The second half I‘m running out of space for, which is perhaps just as well. The visitors won it with Manchester demonstrating clear lack of fitness and loss of focus in the last quarter. That should be a learning point for us from this game.
Initially it started just like the first, a steal from a scrum by Charlie who couldn’t quite make the line this time. Great support by Sion to be first man there, the classic 7’s one metre try and the MOM award just reward for his work rate all game long.
However, after a period of some fairly poor kicking by the home side Penrith’s backs gained the ball in open field and clearly demonstrated that, without the consistent defensive pressure Manchester had exerted throughout the first half, they could also run-in “easy” tries. They ran in the first of four of them, all in similar circumstances against a tiring home team who appeared to have lost much of their defensive motivation. Was that partly because three leaders on the field had been subbed?
Not that one should take anything away from two further lovely home scores. Rich Mccartney influential in the first in giving Alex his hat-trick opportunity and Alex and Joe Williams combining to do likewise for Doug Day for the second. Everything converted….of course.
87-39, a fantastic record 12 try win, a perfect peerless performance in all departments by one of our antipodeans.
Quite a game. Please can we have 3 bonus points!
Just in case anyone from Penrith would want to read this home report they do deserve considerable kudos for sticking at it. Not many teams would have regained their self-respect by the end, after that first half blitz. Few would have gained that well-deserved point.