Manly Warringah Sea Eagles are through to the NSWRL Harold Matthews Grand Final following a gutsy 22-10 win over Penrith Panthers today.
In an enthralling Preliminary Final at St Marys Leagues Stadium, the Sea Eagles soaked up enormous pressure on their line early in the second half before pulling away to record a well-deserved victory against the minor premiers. It was the first time the two teams had met this season.
The victory sees Manly into their second consecutive Harold Matthews Grand Final and the Sea Eagles will be determined to go one better in the U16s competition after narrowly going down to Newcastle last year in the decider.
The Sea Eagles opened the scoring when hooker Gordon Chan Kum Tong darted over from dummy half. Winger Uluaki Tuipulotu converted the try for a 6-0 lead.
Penrith hit back in the 15th minute when second-rower Izack Tago crashed over out wide. The try was not converted for a 6-4 scoreline.
Manly lock James Uesele then showed great determination and strength to score under the posts. Tuipulotu converted for a 12-4 lead after 20 minutes.
The Sea Eagles took a 16-4 lead into half-time when full-back Tolutau Koula crossed for a try after the ball was kept alive from a crossfield kick by half-back Kaeo Weekes.
Penrith five-eighth Niwhai Puru scored near the posts after Manly were forced to defend their line for an extraordinary amount of time with the Panthers dominating possession. The try was converted for a 16-10 scoreline with 15 minutes remaining.
The Panthers were denied a try to half-back Connor Mason under the posts when the referee ruled he lost control of the ball under some desperate Manly scramble defence.
The Sea Eagles went to a 20-10 lead through a superb individual try by hooker Gordon Chan Kum Tong who used sheer strength and determination to bump off several defenders to score next to the posts. The try was not converted.
Manly then kicked a penalty goal on full-time to secure the 22-10 victory.
The Sea Eagles now play either Newcastle or Parramatta in the Grand Final at Leichhardt Oval next Saturday. Time to be advised.