Hasler plays down crunch clash with Storm - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hasler plays down crunch clash with Storm

Ian McCullough 21/08/2011 06:53:49 PM Comments (0)

Friday's meeting between Melbourne and Manly may well be the most eagerly-awaited match of the NRL season, but Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler is refusing to talk up the prospect of the clash being a dress rehearsal for this year's grand final.

Manly preserved their 100 per cent home record on Sunday with a hard-fought 27-16 win over Canterbury at Brookvale Oval, to set up a mouth-watering encounter with the Storm, who are chasing a new club record 13th straight victory.

Melbourne lead Manly on the ladder by four points and have a 57-point advantage in points differential, and Hasler insists his side have a long way to go to match Craig Bellamy's team.

"It's always going to be a good contest ... sides one and two respectively," Hasler said.

"Melbourne are definitely the benchmark. They're definitely the side to beat, they're an outstanding side (with) arguably some of the best players in the world.

"We'll need to play really well to beat Melbourne. We have to play a lot better than we did today. We can't be giving the Storm the opportunities that we gave the Bulldogs."

The Storm edged out St George Illawarra 8-6 in an arm wrestle of a clash on Friday at AAMI Park to preserve their lead at the top of the ladder.

The result saw the reigning premiers slip to seventh, with Wests Tigers moving into sixth spot thanks to a routine 31-12 win over struggling Parramatta on Sunday at the Sydney Football Stadium to make it six victories in row.

It was also a good weekend for the Warriors, who beat Penrith 26-12 on Saturday, to rise to fourth spot, following North Queensland's late defeat to in-form South Sydney on Friday, that saw them slip down to fifth.

While Hasler jokingly tried to claim he had no idea who his side faced next weekend, centre Steve Matai said the players were well aware of what needs to be done if they are to repeat their 2009 grand final success over the Storm.

"We've got a few things we have to do before we face Melbourne," said the New Zealand international, who scored his side's crucial fourth try against the Bulldogs.

"The Bulldogs played well today, but we have to improve. We're going to have to be on our game, it will be a quick turnaround but we will be up for it.

"They're the No.1 team, and if we make the grand final we want to face the best team and the best team at the moment is Melbourne.

"I haven't seen much of them this year, but over the years they just stick to their guns and play out their sets and defend well, we have to do that to them.

"We are the only side undefeated at home and we want to keep that going."

Elsewhere over the weekend, Sydney Roosters staged a sensational comeback on Saturday to beat Cronulla 36-25, thanks to three tries in the last seven minutes.

At Skilled Park, the Gold Coast moved off the bottom of the ladder with a dour 26-18 win over fellow strugglers Canberra.

The second-last Titans will now host Parramatta, who now sit in the wooden spoon position, in round 26 in a game that is likely to decide who finishes the season in last spot.

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