Rivals Manly and Storm on knife's edge - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Rivals Manly and Storm on knife's edge

10/09/2009 07:05:09 PM Comments (0)

Manly have the chance to square the ledger with Melbourne in the clubs' "grand final era" on Friday and leave their bitter rivals dangling precariously on the brink of elimination.

The Sea Eagles-Storm rivalry may be one of the NRL's shorter feuds, but it boasts plenty of intensity after the sides locked horns in the past two grand finals.

It has heroes like Churchill medallists Greg Inglis and Brent Kite and villains in the form of Matt Orford, who defected from the Storm in 2006, and former Melbourne second-rower Michael Crocker, who knocked Manly fullback Brett Stewart senseless early in the 2007 decider.

In the clubs' grand final era of 2007-09, the overall ledger stands at Melbourne four wins, Manly three.

A Sea Eagles victory at Etihad Stadium would draw the teams level and leave Craig Bellamy and his men squirming all weekend awaiting other results.

A loss would have Des Hasler and company sweating it out.

"We played them in the past two grand finals and that gets a bit of a rivalry going I suppose and they're the defending premiers," Bellamy said on Thursday.

"It's always a good tussle when we play them and tomorrow night won't be any different."

The Sea Eagles, too, always relish getting one over their southern nemeses.

"Two grand finals against each other, you obviously build a bit of spirit and play your best in grand finals," Sea Eagles winger David Williams said.

"Playing the same team twice, you obviously just build it up over time.

"It's a rivalry ... purely left on the park if you want to put it that way."

Tempering that is the fact the Storm have only half their grand final squad from 2008 heading into Friday night's match.

"But I think Manly have got 14 out of the 17 they had last year, we've got eight or nine," Bellamy said.

"They haven't had a whole heap of changes, but it's a different year, different teams.

"The game will be played a little bit differently than in the last couple of years."

One difference for Melbourne, since Manly notched a 20-16 round 24 victory, has been the return of Inglis.

Bellamy said the superstar centre's comeback had coincided with a marked improvement in his side's attack.

"We had a long, hard look at our attack, it's probably been stuttering at different times during the season," he said.

"I thought in that game (against Manly) we defended very well but our attack was off in a couple of areas.

"We've worked really hard to do a couple of little things differently and we've had some good results the last two weeks.

"But it's another rise in class playing against Manly."

The sides' injury concerns, Manly's Jamie Lyon and Melbourne's Jeff Lima, are expected to play.

Five-eighth Lyon will be given until the last minute to prove he has recovered from a shoulder injury, while prop Lima is likely to wear a protective guard on his fractured thumb.

Both sides ran hot as they tuned up for the playoffs last week, Manly belting Gold Coast 38-4 and Melbourne thrashing the Warriors 30-0.

They have never met at Etihad, where the Storm have won their last five games, but Manly have lost five of their last six games in Melbourne.

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