The clincher...Sea Eagles centre Keegan Turner dives over for the team's final try against Parramatta Eels at Kogarah today. Photo: Bryden Sharp Photography.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles have advanced to the Harold Matthews Grand Final following a thrilling 30-24 victory over Parramatta Eels today.
In a superb game between two quality teams at UOW Jubilee Oval, the Sea Eagles led 26-10 at half-time and had to withstand a late Eels challenge to move into the decider.
Manly Coach Brett Fulton and his team will be looking to win the club’s first Harold Matthews title since the U16s competition began in 1970. The Sea Eagles will either play Canberra or the undefeated minor premiers Newcastle next Saturday at Leichardt Oval. Time to be advised.
The Sea Eagles opened the scoring in the second minute through winger Uluaki Tuipulotu after the ball was spread to the left following an Eels drop ball. Half-back Daniel Ala converted from the sidelines for a 6-0 lead.
Manly were in again a few minutes when the ball was shift to the right for centre Ben Trbojevic to score for a 10-0 lead. Ala failed to convert the try.
Great work by Manly full-back Albert Hopoate in beating three defenders from his in-goal laid the platform for his team’s third try when five-eighth Kaeo Weekes cut open the defence to score. Ala converted for a 16-0 lead.
The Sea Eagles stretched the lead to 20-0 when second-rower Jacob Ratcliff crashed over. Ala converted for a 22-0 scoreline.
Parramatta then went back-to-back tries through centre Campbell Byrd and full-back Tevita Masima to trail 22-10 with 10 minutes remaining before half-time.
Manly took a 26-10 lead into the break when prolific tryscorer Albert Hopoate split the defence out wide to score.
The Eels blew a certain try two minutes into the second half when centre Penioni Tohi threw a terrible pass to his unmarked winger Viliami Penisini that saw the ball go into touch.
However the Eels were not to be denied a minute later when full-back Tevita Masima flew down the left flank to score in the corner to reduce Manly’s lead to 26-14.
Ala then took on the Parramatta line but his final pass inside found an Eels player in the 45th minute before the Eels hit back through a try to prop Sam Hughes for a 26-18 scoreline with 11 minutes remaining.
For the next six minutes, both sides threw plenty at each other in attack and defence but it was the Sea Eagles who broke through when centre Keegan Turner dived over in the left corner for a 30-18 lead with four minutes remaining.
The Eels were not done with and hit back two minutes later through a converted try to prop David Hollis for a 30-24 scoreline.
The final two minutes saw Manly dig deep in defence before holding on to the ball late to secure victory and a grand final berth.
Manly Sea Eagles 30 (U Tuipulotu, B Trbojevic, K Weekes, J Ratcliff, A Hopoate, K Turner tries; D Ala 3 goals) def Parramatta Eels 24 (T Masima 2, C Byrd, S hughes, D Hollis tries; T Field 2 goals)
Sea Eagles team
1 Albert Hopoate
2 Armani Biddle
3 Keegan Turner
4 Ben Trbojevic
5 Uluaki Tuipulotu
6 Kaeo Weekes
7 Daniel Ala
8 Filimaua Filimaua Tau
9 Jack Birt
10 Alec Tuitavake
11 Jacob Ratcliff
12 Joshua Schuster (C)
13 Levi Moger
14 Luke Rouland
15 Tyreece Matangi
16 Viliami Fifita
17 Jai Vakai