Sea Eagles 32
The Manly Sea Eagles steamrolled the New Zealand Warriors in Sydney last night to set up a repeat of last year's National Rugby League Grand Final.
Before a Sydney Football Stadium crowd of 32,095, including a large chunk of rowdy Warriors fans, captain Steve Price's men finally bowed out after progressing further than any other eighth-placed side under the decade-long McIntyre finals system.
Inspired by Dally M player of the year Matt Orford, Manly were simply too good for a weary Warriors side, scoring seven tries to one to cap off a miserable night for the Auckland-based club. The Warriors' under-20 side was pipped 26-28 by Brisbane in the curtainraiser.
It was also a final farewell for Warriors idol and former Kiwis captain Ruben Wiki, 35, who played his 312th and last NRL match.
After shedding their beards the Warriors will say goodbye to Wiki and Logan Swann, the only foundation player remaining at the club.
Meanwhile, Manly's inspirational forward Steve Menzies will go on next week to equal Bulldogs legend Terry Lamb's record of 349 premiership appearances before leaving for the UK Super League where he will play for Bradford.
After the match, Wiki told Sky TV's Steven McIvor that he wished Menzies well for next week's Grand Final. "I hoped one of us old guys would get there," he said.
Next week the Sea Eagles will play Melbourne, who earned their place in the Grand Final with a similar drubbing of the Cronulla Sharks. The Storm overcame a week wrought with controversy - the suspension of captain Cameron Smith not the least of their worries - to thrash the Sharks 28-0.
Melbourne beat Manly 34-8 in last year's Grand Final.
- NZ HERALD STAFF, NZPA