AAP Rugby

Manly’s starting props best in NRL finals

By AAP Newswire

Martin Taupau's return will make Manly's starting middle the most dangerous of the remaining finalists ahead of Friday's heavyweight clash with South Sydney.

Taupau is set to come back from suspension to start alongside rampaging prop Addin Fonua-Blake for the semi-final, as part of a superstar battle with Sam Burgess.

Barely listed among the best middles in the game at the start of the year, Taupau and Fonua-Blake now make for the most dangerous with Jake Trbojevic also at lock.

Arguably the form forward of the competition, Fonua-Blake has averaged 152 metres a game this season and put defenders on their backs for fun at times.

His one-two punch with Taupau is also formidable, with Manly getting a combined 289 metres per game out of their two starting props.

Of the remaining finalists, the Roosters are the next best with 267 metres, according to Fox Sports Stats.

"You get confidence from having (Taupau) in your team," Trbojevic said.

"He is a world-class player, he has been for a number of years.

"Hopefully him and Addin can work really well together like they have been all year.

"It's been a real good year for (Addin) seeing him turn into a leader of this club. Everyone forgets he is only 23. He's got a lot of footy in front of him."

Manly are well aware though of the threat a fired-up Burgess will posses for the Rabbitohs after being suspended for a hair pull.

It was abundantly clear how much he was missed in Souths' qualifying-final loss to the Sydney Roosters.

Souths's end-of-season slump can largely be attributed to Burgess's ill-health, while they looked a different side with him in against the Roosters in round 25.

And for that reason it will be Taupau, Fonua-Blake and Trbojevic's work in defence that will take centre stage at ANZ Stadium.

"He's a real leader for them and the enforcer for their team," Fonua-Blake said.

"We're going to have to try and slow it down somehow."

Fonua-Blake, for his part, is happy to retain an underdog status headed into the match.

Still without second-rowers Curtis Sironen and Joel Thompson, Manly will likely have six players in their pack and bench with less than 35 games NRL experience.

But Fonua-Blake warned that experts would again only be writing Manly off at their peril.

"No-one gave us a chance to be in the eight and we made the eight. And no-one gave us a chance on the weekend and look what happened," he said.

"It's a good thing we get written off so we don't have any pressure on us."

FINALISTS AVERAGE STARTING PROPS' METRES

Manly (Addin Fonua-Blake and Martin Taupau): 289

Sydney Roosters (Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Siosuia Taukeiaho): 267

Melbourne (Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona): 228

South Sydney (Sam Burgess and Liam Knight): 219

Canberra (Josh Papalii and Sia Soliola): 214

Parramatta (Junior Paulo and Kane Evans): 212

Stats: Fox Sports