Ahead of the NRL resuming on May 28, Love Rugby League decided to look at some past matches between the third round match ups.
Our final game in this series is Manly Sea Eagles v Canterbury Bulldogs in round 25 of the 2006 NRL season.
The Sea Eagles came into this round 25 clash between two of the league’s best teams in third place and were looking for a third straight win after victories over South Sydney and Newcastle.
They had actually started the 2006 campaign losing their first two games but set up their season by claiming five wins from the following six matches.
The Sea Eagles had recovered from a dip in form mid-season, losing narrowly to Cronulla and consecutive games at Brookvale to Brisbane and Newcastle which left them in danger of slipping out of the top eight.
Led by Steve Folkes, the Bulldogs were looking to bounce back from a 30-0 thrashing at the hands of the Broncos.
Despite this, they came into the match in second place due to chalking up six successive wins before their surprise humbling including two impressive performances against the Dragons.
They had actually endured a mixed start with three wins and defeats apiece in their first six rounds, with the worst loss coming against the Sea Eagles who battered them 40-14.
Manly 21-20 Canterbury
In this top of the table clash, it was a sterling performance from Sea Eagles captain Matt Orford which eventually proved to be the difference.
The half-back kicked four goals, a drop goal and crossed for a try as the home side kept their winning run going.
Andrew Emelio and Andrew Ryan had claimed first half tries for the visitors but they trailed 18-12 at the break.
Manly had seen Shayne Dunley and winger Michael Robertson cross in the opening period as Canterbury launched a fightback.
They took the game to golden point thanks to a Nate Myles try and the boot of the ever reliable Hazem el Masri.
Despite the flawless kicking of the Lebanese winger, Orford had the final word when he slotted one over to give Manly a nail-biting victory.
Manly: Stewart; Robertson, Bell, Matai, Hicks; Burns, Orford; J King, M Monaghan, Kite, Menzies, Watmough, Williamson. Subs: Dunley, Leuluai, Bryant, Rose.
Canterbury: Patten; El Masri, Emelio, Williams, Utai; Holdsworth, Sherwin; O’Meley, C Hughes, Armit, Myles, Ryan, Maitua. Subs: McIlwain, Perry, Morrin, Hickey.
What happened next?
Manly fell to defeat in their final regular season game at Melbourne and this, coupled with other results, meant Des Hasler’s side started the finals from fifth.
Their qualifying final pitted them against fourth-placed Newcastle who they had narrowly beaten in round 23.
However, a Kurt Gidley double and a Jarrod Mullen drop goal consigned the Brookvale outfit to a 25-18 loss.
A second chance meant they faced St George Illawarra who they were fancied to beat but the Sea Eagles’ season was ended when they disappointed in losing 28-0.
In contrast, Canterbury triumphed in their final round against Penrith, ensuring they held onto second spot behind the Storm.
The Raiders were their first finals opponents and were dispatched 30-12, courtesy of an impressive El Masri performance.
This left a match against Brisbane to decide one of the Grand Finalists and the Bulldogs were seemingly there after surging into a 20-6 half-time lead.
For the second time that season the Broncos shocked Folkes’ side as they fought back to win 37-20.
Wayne Bennett’s team would go on to lose in the final to the Storm whose subsequent title and minor premiership was stripped after they were found guilty of breaching the salary cap.
By Sam Harris
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