It was, to coin a phrase from Collaroy Basin rugby league identity Matthew Johns, a bludger of a day: blustery southerly; cold; overcast. It didn’t rain. Didn’t have to. Manly Marlins’ parade was doused anyway Saturday, going down 36-18 to competition powerhouse Northern Suburbs at Manly Oval.

Norths looked bigger, better. Super Rugby bodies. Provincial. Their No.6 Brad Hemopo looked like he’d eaten Willie Ofahengaue. His try on 20 minutes started 40m out, went through eight sets of hands, most of them owned by forwards sea-gulling in the world’s biggest backline.

it was a try from sustained pressure. The first 20 minutes was all Norths’. They charged their big bodies at the local line and pounded in.

Yet unlike the round one disaster against Gordon, it wasn’t for lack of comms between the local defensive unit. It was just that the Shoremen were too big, ran too straight, offloaded, and repeat.

Manly was brave. There was no lack of effort. They weren’t out-enthused.

But it was all they could do to hang on.

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James “Cecil” Hilterbrand welcomes several Shoremen to Manly Oval. Pic: David Maclean, PBS Sportspics

Shoremen seven Charlie Jeavons-Fellows, a one-time Worcester Warrior, scored a similar try to Hemopo’s: backline full of pigs, hitting holes, freeing arms, soft hands. Hooker James Margan was prominent, shades of Melbourne Storm’s “Block of Cheese” Brandon Smith.

It was total rugby. And at 22-3 a rout loomed large for the locals.

Then James Hilterbrand went down. Harry Bergelin was put in the sin bin. And Marlins supporters sipped chilly tinnies and thought: Well, that cannot help.

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Josh Dowsing vs Northern Suburbs. Pic: David Maclean, PBS Sports Pics

Yet Hilterbrand got up. And Manly rallied, man down. They won penalties at scrum and breakdown. They kicked for corners, won lineouts in red zone. Just as Bergelin came back on, Norths lost a man for repeated infringements.

And Manly bombed in. Eventually took points. And went to halftime trailing 22-6.

Second half they ran out and did it again. They came hard. Multiple bodies at speed at the opposition line. They’d have cracked many teams. And surely would have Norths, eventually. Yet indiscipline and execution cost the locals.

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BJ Hartmann’s tactical kicking kept Manly in the match. Pic: David Maclean, PBS Sportspics

No.8 Josh Dowsing threw a ball into touch and clutched his own head. Bergelin threw his head into a ruck, unbound. Was perhaps lucky to stay on. BJ Hartmann had a kick charged down. Ultimately though his tactical kicking kept Manly in the match. 

Yet for all the ball and territory, Manly didn’t have much of what you’d call cut-through, penetration.

Wasn’t for lack of trying.

Outside-centre Nicolas Benn looks a prospect; a hard-running 19-year-old from the Hunter Valley with a shock of blonde hair; bit of Ireland winger Simon Geoghegan about him. Handling let him down at times but he’ll be better for the run.

But Yool Yool he was not.

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Hard-charger: Marlins No.12 Dennis Pili-Gaitau. Pic: David Maclean, PBS Sportspics

And so the match progressed, Norths giving away penalties, Hartmann kicking for position. Eventually Manly cracked them. Another attacking lineout, fractured line, and flanker Hunter Ward ploughed over under a frenetic stack of blue bodies.

Hartmann hooked the conversion. Yet those same tinny-clutching types sideline nudged each other and muttered: Well, 22-11, eh? Twenty minutes to go. This may not be over.

Yet it was over, of course, or good as. In a stop-start fixture which, as Mr Johns would tell you, was largely a bludger outside sporadic starbursts, Norths’ No.10 Max Burey burned through some slack midfield D and went over near the posts. Ward bagged a double after sustained pressure to make it 29-18 with 5 minutes to go.

Harley Attwater came on, round two’s Hero of Woollahra. But there was too much to do, too little time. And all he could do was watch Norths nine Nick Duffy find a hole, sluice through and hook a big steel gaff into Marlin gills.

Elsewhere Warringah Rats were run down 22-20 by Gordon Highlanders at Chatswood Oval.