Schuster and Turbo fire Manly to win as Parra drops another point fest

Manly and Parramatta have played many classics over the years and you can add this right up there with the best of them all.

There are camera crashes, and then there’s this. Manley runs forward, Parra spins into them, Manley reverses it and off again before being taken down again. A late interception seemed to tie it up, only for another Eel to try to bring it back. Four tries in the final six minutes clinched it, eventually 34-30 to the Sea Eagles.

They go 2-0 with the bye, Parra remains 0-3. For the third week in a row they have scored as many tries as their opponents and lost.

Brad Arthur would pull his hair out if he had one. It’s frustrating to put yourself in such a good position to win, only to not do it all the time. But he will take heart from his side’s attack, their commitment and willingness to carry on.

There’s plenty to suggest that Parra is a better team than 0-3 suggests. But when Penrith followed, and the Roosters after that, they came within just one of a 0-5 start.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s a good test for us,” Arthur said after the game. “It’s a good test of our character that we stick to it, that we don’t start blaming anyone or listen to too much opinion.

“We know exactly what we need to do to get back on track. We just have to go out and do it. It’s tough, but the NRL is tough. It’s a really good challenge for us and an opportunity to show what we’ve got.”

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Something strange is going on with the Manly defence

Much will be made of Manly’s attacking style under Anthony Seibold, but the defense has been markedly different in 2023’s two outings so far.

They are chasing the clash perhaps more than any other side. Trying to hurt the blokes. Putting the shots.

Most sides will try to contain and dominate by stepping higher on the body and then looking to slow the ball into play, preferably by turning the ball carrier so that their head is pointing towards their positions.

Manly does a bit of that, but also something else. Attacking wings and centers seem hell-bent on finding opponents and hitting their feet.

Whatever you call it, it’s a pretty unique way to approach the game, as with the 160-minute runtime, it feels pretty high-risk.

Of course, when it works, it’s impressive. It’s hard to remember a game where more fouls came from contact than their Round 1 clash with the Bulldogs. Tonight was the same for most of the first half and parts of the second.

In between, however, there were some shocking misses. Parra’s first snap was a comedy of defensive errors, with Christian Tuipulotu scrambling to shoot the line, making way for Clint Gutherson. Tolu Kola attempted a big kick and failed to stick the landing, allowing Guto an easy second try.

Even Jake Trbojevic, arguably the game’s best defender, was made to look silly by Josh Hodgson at one point.

Teams will watch tape and notice that. Hodgson saw the part of it and tried a shot from behind early on and Mitch Moses was delighted to get out of danger and pounce where the man had left.

It is something to watch later. two games is a small sample size, but if this is a trend, it will be a box office hit. It may not work, it will be fun to watch.

“Jake Trbojevic and Lachlan Crocker have really good technique,” Seibold said after the game. “We want to leverage that intent and communication. It’s something we’ve been working on. Some of those players have had it and been good defenders for a long time. We want to use that intent.”

Josh Shuster can take on the world

The story of Manly’s opening round win against Canterbury was the debut of new coach Anthony Seybold, but it lacked the second big intrigue of the off-season: their new five-eighth, Josh Shuster.

His attempt to shed 15 kilos and switch from back rower with good hands dominated the narrative for much of the half, but a calf injury hit him on the eve of the season.

Tonight he got to show everyone what the new, streamlined Schuster can do. On the evidence, it’s a lot.

“His natural ability is quite special,” Daly Cherry-Evans said. “So he can pass the ball and chip and chase 5 meters out. Everything is there for him. It’s just about building consistency in the game.

“Hopefully we can help him with that and hopefully as an older player I can help him with that. The natural ability will always be with him and it’s great to see it come out.”

No one has ever doubted his ability as a ball runner or slick passer, but many have suggested limitations in other areas — hitting and consistency — may be holding him back.

Tonight showed the threat he brings in the halves, with the ability to bring the ball to the line with real authority that comes out of his frame, which is still north of 100kg.

Tom Trbojevic ran his sled a few times and made hay, setting one up for Ruben Garik to score himself. Defenders have to track Shuster, and if they do, it creates space for Turbo.

He even seems to have learned to kick, with one nifty chip that might have been classed as a success had he not later produced a perfectly weighted drink for Haumole Olakau’atu.

It’s just the first game, but the combination of Shuster and Turbo on the left, which Manley heavily favored, is ominous; if the couple can stay fit. Shuster left early with that calf strain, which doesn’t bode well.

Parra is made of tough stuff

It’s been a rough trot for the Eels to start the year. Twice they led against good teams and both times they fell behind and lost late.

Tonight, that trend was reversed. They were nowhere early and Manly dominated. The front row pair left with no points on the board and 14 for the Sea Eagles. And yet, as if by force of will, they pulled themselves inside.

However, it was done in a strangely old way. They kept making mistakes, but Manley suddenly did more. They were beaten during the encounter, but got up and continued on their way.

Finally, King Guto got his moments. In the first, he skinned Daley Cherry-Evans, and in the third, he left Kula. In between, Matt Dury got some Mitch Moses magic.

Parra dominated field position in the first hour but Manly defended well. The Sea Eagles then lacked individual tackles and, as you’d expect from a side as good as the Eels, they were made to pay for it.

“We come with effort, we have a lot of fight and determination and we’ve had kills in all three games, but we need more than just effort,” Arthur said. “We have to fulfill our plan. It’s probably more personal at this point.”

But again, the defense let them down. You can’t concede six tries and have any expectation of winning a game in the NRL.

That said, they may have. Will Pennicini bombed the simplest of offloads for one and Reagan Campbell-Gillard kicked off for a lead that never, ever happened. Change those two and Brad Arthur might be happier.

Instead, they go home with nothing for the third week in a row, trailing their opponents.

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