Miracle at Manly: Gerrard labels Rats’ remarkable comeback his most memorable local derby win
By Matt Findlay; Photo – Karen Watson
Warringah’s astonishing come-from-behind victory in Saturday’s Battle of the Beaches at Manly Oval begs the obvious question – what in the world did Rats coach Mark Gerrard say to his troops at half-time to inspire such a remarkable second-half revival?
As it turns out, not much really.
“Everyone’s asked me that but I don’t really know what to put it down to. It was simple for me at half-time, we’d had no footy and we weren’t getting out of our own areas right,” Gerrard said, his side was trailing 22-3 after Manly put on a 40-minute clinic in the opening period.
“Knowing we had trust in being able to score points, we were confident if we could fix those two things areas up we weren’t out of it, regardless of what the scoreline said.”
Admittedly, he did have the thought it might not be his side’s day after Nick Holton extended Manly’s lead to 22 with a penalty goal just minutes into the new half.
“I did think to myself ‘what’s going on here?’ after they kicked that penalty but our goal had been to score two tries in the first 15 minutes of the second half and we still did that, I was very proud of the resilience they showed to stay in the fight after that. As they say the rest is history,” Gerrard said.
What happened next genuinely needed to be seen to be believed, despite appearing dead and buried Gerrard’s Rats produced 28 unanswered points in the second half to ultimately win 31-25 in front of almost 10,000 people.
After Holton’s 43rd minute penalty goal, his second of the day, Warringah scored through Sailosi Tagicakibau, Ben Woollett and Ben Mar, the latter’s try an 85-metre intercept after an ordinary Holton pass landed in his lap.
Hamish Angus duly converted all three and then did the same when Josh Holmes scored in the 78th minute, sending the Rats’ faithful into raptures and capping off one of the northern derby’s most memorable results.
Gerrard’s most memorable, in fact.
“That game, the win, the fightback … to beat Manly at Manly is no easy task but to do it the way we did I’d probably say that’s the best local derby I’ve ever been a part of, as a coach or player,” the 23-Test Wallaby said.
“I’d been through periods where we’d struggled, there were times when we did it tough and there was times earlier in my career when we beat Manly by ridiculous scores, at Manly Oval too and it is a bit of a different mindset in the coaching role I’m in, but that was something else.”
Saturday’s win was also Warringah’s fourth on the trot after being hammered 50-nil by Sydney University back in round three, and also flipped the 34-24 defeat they suffered in last year’s corresponding derby.
Despite the winning run Gerrard stopped short of saying this Rats side is building to something special, although he did say he’s certainly pleased with how far they’ve come since that shellacking at Uni’s hands.
“We’re not looking too far ahead and I’m not going to say we’re going week-by-week and use that old cliche because we’re not, we’re trying to put it into a fortnightly or monthly plan,” Gerrard said.
“Recognising in the last few seasons at this time of year we’ve been a bit flat and stale, we’ve got to get the balance right and at the end of day half the battle for us as coaches is to create a positive vibe and have everyone wanting to be there.
“After that the coaching part, putting systems in place and that kind of thing, is the easy part.
“One thing I’ve been really pleased with is our leadership development. We put it on the players about owning it far more than the coaching group.
“We’ll tell them what to do and give them the blueprints as to how we want to play but it’s up to them to play it, but we’ve given them a bit more ownership in how we do it as well.
“We sat down at the start of the year and did that, put a plan in place and figured out what we wanted to achieve and it helped that (former Rats coach) DC (Darren Coleman) had put a foundation in place here that I could put my flavour on.
“It is a bit different in the way [the players] are being coached and learning compared to previous seasons but here we are now, and after [Saturday] I couldn’t be prouder of the guys in the way they stayed in that fight and found a way to win, especially with the scoreline the way it was at half-time.”