Sea Eagles put title credentials on line - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sea Eagles put title credentials on line

By Steve Jancetic and Ed Jackson 05/07/2009 11:10:02 PM Comments (0)

They've surged into the NRL top eight on the back of their best form of the season, but Manly skipper Matt Orford claims the Sea Eagles will get a true indication of their premiership credentials on Monday night.

The blockbuster clash with the Bulldogs at Brookvale Oval looms as Manly's toughest assignment of the season, and it kick-starts a crucial four-game stretch in which they play three of the top five sides.

The Sea Eagles' title defence has looked shaky ever since their round one loss to the Dogs, and Orford knows another defeat to the blue and whites would give voice to critics doubting their ability to go back-to-back.

"We've built some great momentum, we've worked really hard - to keep that rolling come Monday night against the Dogs, it's not going to be an easy one," Orford said.

"It'll probably be a great indication of where we are in this comp, for sure.

"They've got that grinding game of football back, they've recruited really well and I think this is going to be one of our toughest tests to date."

Like Manly, the Bulldogs too carry a three-match winning streak into the match.

All three wins have been against sides currently in the top eight, but skipper Andrew Ryan senses something a little special about his side's trip to Brookie.

"It's definitely right up there - we had the Dragons and that was certainly a massive clash for us too but this is one of the bigger ones and it will be good to give us a bit of a gauge as to how we're going," Ryan said.

"The intensity is there from other teams, they expect a lot more form us now."

Much has been made about the battle of the old-stagers in the No.7 jumpers, with Orford and the Bulldogs' Brett Kimmorley both in great form in recent weeks.

Kimmorley is in the frame for a State of Origin recall, but with Blues selectors to name their side of halftime of Monday night's game, it's debatable whether anything he does against the Sea Eagles will have too much of an impact at the selection table.

At 31, reigning Dally M medallist Orford is still waiting for his first crack at Origin football, but he played down the significance of his head-to-head match-up with Kimmorley.

"He's been in great form and we've played against each other for many years now," he said.

"He's probably in career-best form and with his move to the Bulldogs they've been the most consistent team all year."

Manly centre Steve Matai is battling the flu but is expected to play with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Adam Cuthbertson to drop off the six-man bench named earlier this week.

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