ANALYSIS: 13 points are enough as Souths celebrate Sattler with Golden Point win over Manly
“If it’s high enough, if it’s long enough, if it’s straight between the posts…”
So goes the refrain of The day John Sattler broke his jawPerry Keyes’ tribute to the Souths legend who the club bid farewell to with a minute’s silence before kick-off.
The chorus came true 82 minutes later as Lachlan Ilias’ basket sailed to hand Souths a 13-12 win over Manly at Golden Point.
13 points, just like Sattler’s famous shirt number, against the club he beat in the 1970 grand final. You couldn’t script a finish like this. The stadium AP played the sound of Sattler singing the Souths victory song moments after full time and the previously boisterous crowd fell silent.
It was a dramatic, if slightly interrupted, clash between two of the competition’s heavyweights and, once again in the 2023 NRL, an incredibly close battle. The defenses were on top and largely excellent, especially late on as fatigue played a big part.
Latrell Mitchell and Daly Cherry-Evans missed their attempts in regulation time, but after Josh Aloiai’s error in Golden Point’s early games, Ilias made the deal.
The battle of the backs falls flat
It had been billed as Latrell versus Tom Trbojevic, but both were stopped in impressive fashion by both sides’ defensive structures. Latrell is tough to keep out of a game, but was expertly organized by Manly and barely touched until his late field goal attempt, which he badly missed.
Turbo is even harder to take down, and Souths kept him in a yardage and bit more role, with a solid run that came close before the break and very little else.
Instead, it was the tackle that came to the fore. Neither of these teams would have been known for their defense in the past, and both would have expected to show more with the ball than without.
Still, it was a real fight. In the long run this will likely benefit both teams as they can show a lot of improvement without possession to add to what they already have with footy.
Cody Walker back to his best
It looked like it was going to be a long night for Cody Walker. His first kick was horrendous, way over the target, and in his first good attacking moment, Walker didn’t throw a pass to anyone.
Just when it looked like things were really going south, however, he fired back. Walker’s first was full of heart and commitment, chasing a lost kick and hitting it inches from the dead ball line, and his second was the classic Cody, challenging the edge and ghost defender between them.
In recent weeks, he’s been a little off and easily led astray, allowing the red haze to descend and distract him from his best footy.
Tonight was a win for Walker’s temper as much as his game: although there was a bit of a stench and a lot of adversity, the five-eighth didn’t let himself be dragged out of the game.
Demetriou’s Koloamatangi error
The Souths were looking for midfielders after a string of injuries, but Jason Demetriou’s call to take Keaon Koloamatangi away from his usual station on the right edge backfired badly.
The Bunnies are without Jai Arrow, Hame Sele, Tevita Tatola and Shaq Mitchell, so it’s understandable they had to get creative with their props, but it was clear from the start that Koloamatangi was the wrong call.
He removed one of the Souths most powerful weapons from their attack. Several times in the first half, Lachlan Ilias found his advantage on a crash ball, but Michael Chee Kan, as helpful as he was, is no Koloamatangi.
In the middle, Keaon was inefficient, spitting errors and penalties and failing to imprint on the manly forwards. He lost 65 minutes in the front row, took a two-minute break, then came back to his edge.
They eventually got there, but for most of the game the Souths lost one of their best attacking options and gained nothing from it.
DCE continues – and it improves Schuster
Daly Cherry-Evans is cut out for this kind of play. His season started off brilliantly with a hat trick against the Bulldogs, but that level of tries was the anomaly. It was Chez’s trademark, bringing the team together and showing all of us in the world to catch his interception try, reading Cam Murray’s pass like yesterday’s newspaper.
DCE also greatly improves the man next to him. Josh Schuster, who missed Round 1, came alive in Round 3 with a superb performance. Like the bowler who takes wickets thanks to the economy of his partner at the other end, Schuster must pay tribute to Cherry-Evans, who does all the hard work so he doesn’t have to.
Schuster showed all his skills with a series of no-look passes and chicken steps, but he gets that freedom knowing that all the kicking, organization and leadership is under control.
No Weekes link
Manly’s hook rotation was disrupted by a shoulder injury to Lachlan Croker, with Karl Lawton brought in as a replacement. Lawton was fine – much better than his last outing against Souths, in which he was sent off – but the real magic came when Kaeo Weekes came on.
Lawton was taken off after half an hour and Weekes was given the bulk of the game afterwards. He didn’t let his side down.
Weekes has impressed going through the lower grades and has been in the first team for some time, but has rarely gotten long minutes in the NRL. Tonight he showed just how good he could be, with plenty of disappointment around the ruck and some dangerous, jerky runs.
He was a full-back who always moved like one, with speed and evasion.
Basically, he was more than up to the task in defence, which is always likely to be the biggest demand on rookies entering the NRL, and doubly so when moving from full-back to forward.