Well this is it. The showdown between the 1993 Brisbane Broncos and the 2008 Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles to determine the greatest side of the last twenty years.
The ’93 Broncos pipped the 1994 Canberra Raiders for the 1990’s throne while the Eagles edged the 2002 Sydney Roosters as the best from the new millennium.
Will the speed and skill of the Broncos be enough to defeat the grit and power of the Eagles?
Referees: Bill Harrigan and Greg McCallum
Video Referee: God (He couldn’t stuff it up could he?)
1 Julian O’Neill, 2 Michael Hancock, 3 Steve Renouf, 4 Chris Johns, 5 Willie Carne, 6 Kevin Walters, 7 Alan Langer ©, 8 Glen Lazarus, 9 Kerrod Walters, 10 Mark Hohn, 11 Trevor Gillmeister, 12 Alan Cann, 13 Terry Matterson.
Bench: 14 Andrew Gee, 15 John Plath, 16 Peter Ryan, 17 Gavin Allen.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
1 Brett Stewart, 2 Michael Robertson, 3 Steven Bell, 4 Steve Matai, 5 David Williams, 6 Jamie Lyon, 7 Matt Orford ©, 8 Brent Kite, 9 Matt Ballin, 10 Josh Perry, 11 Anthony Watmough, 12 Glen Hall, 13 Glenn Stewart.
Bench: 14 Heath L’estrange, 15 Mark Bryant, 16 Jason King, 17 Steve Menzies.
It was a dubious start for the Sea Eagles with Anthony Watmough giving away a penalty for a high shot on Trevor Gillmeister in the opening set of the game.
After an impressive touch finder from Julian O’Neill, the Broncos were hunting for first points within the first two minutes.
But the Eagles held firm and after a sweeping play which started with Alan Langer, O’Neill grubbered for the in-goal and the Broncos had Brett Stewart in-goal.
It was a near thing moments later when a Glen Lazarus offload close to the line seemed to harmlessly fall on the ground and allow Jamie Lyon to dive on the ball. But replays revealed a hand from Watmough had knocked the ball free and Lyon was deemed offside.
4th Minute: O’Neill Penalty Goal (Broncos 2-0)
After a shaky start from Manly, the 2008 premiers eventually settled and started to win the arm wrestle through the middle. With Watmough and Glenn Stewart causing problems for Brisbane on the edges, Broncos coach Wayne Bennett turned to his bench and replaced Alan Cann with Peter Ryan.
But the change wouldn’t stop the Eagles as Brett Stewart sliced through after a nice interchange of passing between brother Glenn and Matt Orford.
Orford’s short ball saw the flying fullback race down field and only a despairing dive from Steve Renouf stopped the Eagles scoring their first points.
A Orford kick back across field was easily marked by Michael Hancock in-goal. But a late hit on Orford from Mark Hohn handed Manly their first chance at points.
17th Minute: Lyon Penalty Goal (2-All)
A bone-jarring hit from Lazarus on Josh Perry forced the ball free on the following set and the Broncos were pressing once more.
A short side raid from Kerrod Walters gave Brisbane an overlap and only had to draw Lyon to send Willie Carne away for the points. But Lyon somehow tapped the pass into the air and regathered before scooting away. O’Neill came across in cover but it was all in vain as Lyon streaked away untouched to score.
20th Minute: Lyon Try and Goal (Eagles 8-2)
After a string of penalties the Broncos returned to the right end of the park.
Langer would put his stamp on the game with a masterful display of short kicking that would eventually see Carne cross out wide.
On the fifth tackle and twenty metres from the Manly tryline, Langer grubbered for himself. Instead of attempting a regather at Brett Stewart’s feet, Langer kicked again for a flying Carne who dived on the ball to score.
34th Minute: Carne Try, O’Neill Goal (8-All)
Steve Menzies was finally sent into the game by coach Hasler and it almost paid immediate dividends as Orford put up a midfield bomb.
O’Neill spilt the ball cold and a chasing Menzies toed ahead. Carne won the race to the ball by only inches as the video referee determined Carne had grounded the ball ahead of the chasing Menzies.
Half-Time: Broncos 8 – Eagles 8
Brisbane came out of the box flying in the second half with Lazarus leading his pack from the front.
A Lazarus charge would be followed by a Kerrod Walters scamper with the hooker catching Watmough and Perry out at marker. Brett Stewart would make the tackle on Walters after the clean bust but the damage was already done as Langer shifted the ball out quickly handing Renouf a free passage to the line.
49th Minute: Renouf Try, O’Neill No Goal (Broncos 12-8)
Langer was at it again not long after with a sizzling run through the middle of the Manly ruck before linking with Terry Matterson. The Eagles were hanging on for dear life as the Broncos pelted the Manly tryline.
After three repeat sets of six, Manly finally cracked as Kerrod Walters stepped out of dummy half and turned Cann back inside who slammed the ball down on the chalk.
56th Minute: Cann Try, O’Neill Goal (Broncos 18-8)
Manly would hit back immediately like the champion side they are. With the game slipping away, the Eagles fired up and forced the ball from Andrew Gee’s grip after a crunching hit from Menzies and Watmough.
On the second tackle and close to the line, Glenn Stewart done the unthinkable and kicked for the posts. It seemed the only other player on the field that knew about it was his brother who grounded the ball ahead of O’Neill and Matterson.
59th Minute: Brett Stewart Try, Lyon Goal (Broncos 18-14)
But an innocuous Hancock scoot would hurt Manly once more. With Manly pushing up hard on the open side, the representative winger hit the blindside before beating Glen Hall with a brilliant right foot step. The big winger was away for the prize and only had Brett Stewart to beat.
Fortunately for Brisbane, Renouf was looming on the inside and took the pass from Hancock to score his second under the posts.
68th Minute: Renouf Try, O’Neill Goal (Broncos 24-14)
Lazarus would cap a monstrous performance with a late surge that left Matt Ballin and David Williams in his wake. The following play would see Langer kick for the corner and Chris Johns tap the ball back to the waiting Terry Matterson.
75th Minute: Matterson Try, O’Neill Goal (Broncos 30-14)
Broncos 30: Renouf 2, Carne, Cann, Matterson Tries. O’Neill 5 Goals.
Eagles 14: Lyon, B.Stewart Tries. Lyon 3 Goals.
Man of the Match: Glen Lazarus
Greatest team of the last 20 years: 1993 Brisbane Broncos. Agree or disagree?