Manly Warringah Sea Eagles suffered a 40-18 loss to South Sydney Rabbitohs at Lottoland today in week one of the NSWRL Harold Matthews Cup finals.
The Sea Eagles finished the regular season in third place with the Rabbitohs second. Both teams won seven of their eight matches and met in the final round last Saturday, with Manly winning 28-24 at Blacktown to end Souths’ undefeated run.
Manly also went into the game without exciting half-back and prolific point scorer Teddy Wilson after he suffered a broken ankle last week.
The Sea Eagles got off to a nervous start with a forward pass called on the second tackle to give Souths a scrum feed 15 metres out. Fortunately for the Sea Eagles, winger Konini Vosaicake took an intercept from a cut out pass a few tackles later to take the pressure off Manly.
The Sea Eagles opened the scoring in the sixth minute when a crossfield kick by five-eighth Izaak Nasio saw Vosaicake tap the ball back inside for centre Filipo Whitehouse-Opetaia to score out wide. Centre Oliver Cummins converted for a 6-0 lead.
The Rabbitohs blew a tryscoring opportunity when five-eighth Emmanuel Di Bartolo made a break down the left side to link with winger Joshua Mocevakaca only for Di Bartolo to drop the pass back inside with the tryline in sight.
Two minutes later, Souths were not to be denied when winger Christian Smirnotis finished off a backline play to score untouched in the right corner in the 14th minute. Half-back Joseph Nohra converted from the sideline for a 6-all scoreline.
Three minutes later, Souths took a 10-6 lead when winger Carson Kaho scored off a great offload by full-back and captain Joseph Suaalii. Nohra converted for a 12-6 lead after 19 minutes.
The Sea Eagles then lost Cummins through an ankle injury with the goal-kicking centre carried off on a stretcher.
Suaalii then backed up a break by second-rower Dranza Hawe-De-Thierry to score near the posts in the 22nd minute. Nohra converted for an 18-6 lead.
South Sydney took a 22- 6 lead into half-time when Suaalii crashed over in the left corner for his second try in the 29th minute.
The Sea Eagles hit back in the 38th minute when half-back Daniel O’Donnell muscled his way over under the posts. Nasio converted for a 22-12 scoreline.
Manly hooker Kobe Fulton then dived over next to the posts in the 41st minute after good lead up work from O’Donnell. Nasio converted the try for a 22-18 scoreline.
Souths extended their lead when Suaalii stepped his way past the defence to score near the posts in the 46th minute. Nohra converted for a 28-18 lead.
The Rabbitohs went to a 32-18 lead when Suaalii stepped and weaved his way through the defence to score his third try. Nohra converted for a 34-18 scoreline after 53 minutes.
South Sydney secured victory when Suaalii crossed for his fourth try. Nohra converted for a 40-18 lead with three minutes remaining.
Manly now go into a sudden-death semi-final next weekend with their opponent to be advised.
Sea Eagles team
1 Luke Tucker, 2 Konisi Vosaicake, 3 Filipo Whitehouse-Opetaia, 4 Ollie Cummins, 16 Quentin Lemoto, 6 Izaak Nasio, 7 Daniel O'Donnell (c), 8 Dion Yazdani, 9 Kobe Fulton, 10 Israel Ahofono, 11 Tom Wheen, 12 Ibrahim Fakhri, 13 Oscar Palin; Interchange: 15 Fifili Tonga, 17 Latrell Fonua, 18 Samuela Fainu, 21 Jakob Biet