Manly pack the pick of the NRL: Ryles - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Manly pack the pick of the NRL: Ryles

By Todd Balym and David Beniuk 12/09/2008 06:14:41 PM Comments (0)

Dragons prop Jason Ryles has delivered a pre-game compliment to finals foe Manly, labelling their forward pack the most physical in the NRL.

In a slap in the face to minor premiers Melbourne, Ryles said the Sea Eagles now set the NRL benchmark for toughness in the forwards.

But Ryles won't be exchanging any pleasantries on Saturday night at Brookvale Oval as his side must beat the Sea Eagles in their qualifying final to stay alive in 2008.

"Manly are far and away the most physical side that I've played this year, we know what we're in for in that department," said Ryles.

"The early onslaught will definitely be tough and then we need to get into the groove of the game.

"They don't really have many weaknesses over the park which indicates their position on the table."

Ryles' endorsement is matched in the stats with Manly rated No.1 in the NRL for most metres gained (1391.5m) and least metres conceded (1187.5m), proving they typically win the forwards battle.

But winning the war up front isn't the only factor, as the Dragons proved at Brookvale Oval in round 11 this year.

They overcame less possession, metres gained, penalties and linebreaks to post a 20-18 upset of the Sea Eagles.

Manly are only too aware the Dragons have a strong record over them in recent seasons, winning nine of their past 12 clashes, but are not daunted by history.

Halfback Matt Orford, who collected his first Dally M Medal on Tuesday night, believes the Sea Eagles are well-placed to improve on last year's grand final loss to Melbourne.

Orford says his combination with former Test star Jamie Lyon, who is one week back from a knee injury, is ready to pay dividends in the finals.

"We've just got to become more unpredictable and it probably gives me a free rein," said Orford.

"Jamie will obviously take a fair bit of heat off me and if we can sort of keep teams guessing, well that's want we want to do in this finals series."

The Dragons have had their own halves dramas this season and it wouldn't surprise Manly if Jamie Soward (back injury) is reinstated to the starting line up at the expense of five-eighth Ben Rogers.

While it is a must-win clash for the Dragons, a Sea Eagles loss would not kill their 2008 season as their top two finish guaranteed their week one safety net.

It would also give departing veteran Steve Menzies a chance to bring up 350 games if Manly reaches the grand final.

But Lyon says Manly will be hunting the week off and direct passage to a Sydney preliminary final that comes with a victory on Saturday night.

"You want to win every game that you play and you don't want to go into big semi-finals with a loss under your belt so hopefully we can get a good win on Saturday night," said Lyon.

"I think it's a bit of an advantage and gets you to freshen up and get your mind on the job."

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