NRL: Bulldogs loss fires up Manly

By Ian McCullough

Bulldog Ben Barba expects a fightback. Photo / Getty Images
Bulldog Ben Barba expects a fightback. Photo / Getty Images

They're going to have to do it the hard way, but Manly can take solace from history being on their side as coach Geoff Toovey plots a way to retain the NRL premiership in the wake of Friday's qualifying final defeat to Canterbury.

Toovey's men went down 16-10 to the Bulldogs in a brutal encounter that saw co-captain Jamie Lyon limp off with a calf injury and forward Joe Galuvao fail to finish the game because of an ankle problem.

The loss was Manly's first in seven games, but coming at the hands of the team led by former coach Des Hasler, who were also the last team to beat the Sea Eagles, was more galling.

Co-captain Jason King - who along with Steve Matai was placed on report - and Toovey were barely able to mask their disappointment after the game as the Bulldogs booked themselves a week off to prepare for a preliminary final.

Manly now face a sudden-death semifinal in Sydney on Friday, and a club official said yesterday that Lyon and Galuvao would be re-assessed by medical staff tomorrow.

But while the defeat was disappointing, three clubs have managed to win the grand final since 1999 having tasted defeat in their opening finals encounter.

Melbourne were beaten by St George Illawarra in 1999 before avenging that loss in the final, slaying the Dragons 18-16.

Canterbury's 2004-winning team went down 30-22 to North Queensland before bouncing back to beat Melbourne and Penrith, then accounting for Sydney Roosters in the final.

Brisbane also started slowly in 2006, losing 20-6 to the Dragons before reeling off wins against Newcastle and the Bulldogs, with the momentum carrying them to an upset 15-8 win over the Storm in the decider.

And Toovey is confident his side can bounce back, despite the potential loss of key players.

"We've had some great wins this year when we've been down some troops through injury or suspension," he said. "We're a very confident group of players, we've got a great side and we'll go forward."

Newly-crowned Dally M Medallist Ben Barba, who capped off a superb week with the match-winning try at ANZ Stadium, is convinced Manly will come back and feature in the latter stages of the finals.

"We've really got to clean up our game because there's every chance we're going to meet them again and I'm sure that they won't play like that again," Barba said.

"That's why we're not getting ahead of ourselves. There's every chance we could be playing them again and they'll be ready. Even after tonight I still think they're the premiership favourites because they're a tough side.

"They've got some amazing forwards across the field that can break the line in T-Rex [Tony Williams], [Anthony] Watmough and Glenn Stewart," Barba said.

- AAP

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