Defences absent as Dessie’s Titans go 0-6, while Seibold’s Manly show just how far they still have to go


Manly have snuck home against the Titans in a wild game on the Gold Coast, running out 34-30 winners on a night in which, for most of the contest, defending was entirely optional.

It was only in the final quarter, when handling became optional, that the scoring slowed down, leaving both coaches exasperated.

There was a huge external narrative going in, with Des Hasler currently engaged in litigation against Manly, but as soon as the whistle blew, it was clear that any tension that might have lingered between the previous coach and the new bloke wouldn’t have any bearing on the game at all.

There was no intensity to speak of. It was basketball-esque, you-score-we-score.

The Titans threatened to win last week against Canberra and were aggrieved to just get a draw, whereas Manly did actually get a draw and were a little aggrieved not to win.

That could be seen as a form line, but shouldn’t be: neither side played well today.

Manly might think that, at the very least, they were poor and won.

It’s no good, however, reserving your best for the best and then turning up in games that a team with pretensions at the top four should win and playing like this.

Anthony Seibold has managed to get his side up for victories over Penrith and the Roosters on raucous nights at Brookvale Oval, but stumbled in a similarly defensively shaky game at Parramatta and a total disaster against the Dragons. At least, on this occasion, they got the points.

The Titans just look at themselves, like they always do, and wonder how effective they might be if they could even half defend. They scored 30 points and lost.

Turbo makes it look easy!????

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— Fox League (@FOXNRL) April 20, 2024

Where was the tackling?

It’s hard to describe the standard of defending in the first half in a manner that is suitable for a family website, but suffice to say, it wasn’t good.

Kieran Foran was excellent with the ball and Tom Trbojevic went alright too, but they’ll have faced more resistance getting off the bus than they did playing down the edges here.

Brian Kelly and Reuben Garrick seemed to be having a competition about who could misread more runs.

For the first try, Kelly followed Garrick, shooting to entirely the wrong location and missing one of the game’s premier ballrunners in the process, with Turbo strolling over.

Against any other team, you’d be looking for an obstruction, but for the Titans, it’s just another day.

Having shot and missed, he decided to hold and miss instead, failing to engage Luke Brooks, leaving Lofi Khan-Pereira high and dry against a much bigger man in Jason Saab.

Score are level AGAIN after an impressive try from the Titans! ????

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— Fox League (@FOXNRL) April 20, 2024

That said, Manly’s edge also took the first half off, with first Saab then Garrick making horrendous defensive decisions to allow the Titans right back into it.

No worries: Jojo Fifita dropped the ball, the right edge defence collapsed again and Haumole Olakau’atu got over.

No worries again, the Titans added two more, one a dummy half charge from David Fifta and another a reverse kick that saw AJ Brimson outleap Trbojevic.

It was that type of game. In the whole first half, the score beat the clock – 46 points – and every try had come to the near side of the posts, the Titans left, Manly right.

These are sides who are certainly better at attacking than defending, but on the first half, that wouldn’t be hard because neither showed any intensity whatsoever.

“Flying through the air!”

What a try from Brimson!

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— Fox League (@FOXNRL) April 20, 2024

Manly scored 22 points without even pretending to play well. Brimson’s try was a brilliant individual effort, but it was perhaps the only one from the eight scored that wasn’t directly as a result of bad defence.

While the two sides had been helping each other obliquely in the first half, Tanah Boyd decided to be far more direct in the second, throwing an intercept for Tolu Koula that could have been sent by carrier pigeon.

Brimson and Foran did get the Titans back in front again, only for the defence to collapse to cede the lead back to Manly as Ethan Bullemor crashed under the posts.

That was the seventh lead change of the game.

Manly with back-to-back tries! ????

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— Fox League (@FOXNRL) April 20, 2024

Are you not entertained?

There’s a wider point about what constitutes a good game of rugby league. In 2021, we learned that all out attack wasn’t actually that great, especially when the games weren’t close.

This was at least close, but that was only the case because both sides were playing so poorly. It was sugar hit rugby league, with no intensity or meaning.

Coming straight off the back of watching the Panthers and Tigers play out a game filled with grit, this could not have been more different, and it would be hard to suggest that it was better.

Normally we rate a bad game, where both teams play badly, as one with a lot of dropped ball and penalties, but this was something very different. Make no mistake, though: it was dreadful.

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