Sea Eagles keen to end NRL title drought - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sea Eagles keen to end NRL title drought

By Liam Fitzgibbon 23/09/2007 05:54:51 AM Comments (0)

Manly will be out to end an 11-year premiership drought in next weekend's NRL grand final after an impressive 28-6 win over North Queensland in an entertaining preliminary final at the Sydney Football Stadium.

The Sea Eagles will meet the winner of Sunday's second preliminary final between Melbourne and Parramatta in Sunday's grand final, which will be their first since losing to Newcastle in the ARL decider in 1997.

The Sea Eagles, with six premierships to their credit, have not won a title since their 20-8 grand final triumph over St George in 1996 but captain Matt Orford said after the win the Eagles were ready to end the drought.

"It's been a long year, we've worked so hard for this and towards the end of that game it was an awesome feeling," Orford said.

"But you don't want to be too carried away, we're not satisfied yet.

"We're very pleased we've made it this far and we really want to enjoy this week, but we've still got a job to do for the fans ... and we can repay them, by turning up next week and playing exactly like we did tonight."

Scores were locked at 6-all at halftime but the Sea Eagles did in the second stanza what they couldn't do in the first - convert their domination into points, with tries to Anthony Watmough, Steve Bell, Jamie Lyon and Luke Williamson sealing the win.

A try to fullback Brett Stewart had given the Sea Eagles an early lead while Queensland forward Jacob Lillyman had put the Cowboys back square, crossing on the stroke of halftime.

The first half saw three tries disallowed for obstruction - the most controversial involving Stewart - but in the end it mattered little.

Manly's big guns - Matt Orford, Michael Monaghan, Watmough and Stewart - were superb for the victors, who looked sharp in attack and solid in defence all night.

Monaghan's performance was particularly inspirational, after he was forced off in the 16th minute with concussion, but he returned after halftime to be one of Manly's best.

"He got a fair head knock, but he came back on and made a great contribution to that second half," Manly coach Des Hasler said.

Even the Cowboys' brilliant pair of Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen, who had together destroyed their opposition in recent weeks, could do little as the Queenslanders' seven-game winning streak came to an end.

North Queensland coach Graham Murray admitted his side were simply outplayed by the Manly but paid tribute to his side for making it as far as they did.

"I can't be any prouder with the club, where they've got us to with some of the things that have been tossed up to us, with injuries and suspensions," Murray said.

"So we've had a successful year but it's unfortunate we've got to bow out."

Murray reserved special praise for centre Paul Bowman, whose career drew to a close after 203 appearances for the club.

"He's what the club was formed for in the first place - so a North Queensland bloke could live his dream," Murray said.

"Well after he's gone, we'll remember him for how he played and what he did for this club."

With no preference of who they play next week, Orford said the Sea Eagles players would simply put their feet up and enjoy Sunday's game.

"I just hope they bash each other," Orford said.

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