Three tries inside the final 10 minutes gave the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles a 22-14 victory over the Parramatta Eels today in the opening round of the Harold Matthews Cup.
It was a thrilling finish for the Sea Eagles at New Era Stadium in a match that never reached any great heights due to a high error rate from both sides.
With the scores locked at 6-all at half-time, the Sea Eagles piled on late tries to five-eighth Latu Fainu, centre Josh Feledy and full-back Lehi Hopoate to secure the two competition points.
A drop ball by Manly winger Maxwell Taotua led to Parramatta opening the scoring in the third minute when second rower Domenico De Stradis dived over behind the posts off a sharp pass from five-eighth Terrence Lafai. Half-back Ethan Sanders converted for a 6-0 lead.
Manly missed a tryscoring opportunity five minutes later when Taotua spilt a grubber kick from half-back Alfred Ah Chong.
The Sea Eagles failed to take advantage of a superb 40/20 kick by Chong six minutes later when they dropped the ball on the first tackle. A minute later, Taotua had a try disallowed on a forward pass call.
The Sea Eagles got on the board in the 24th minute when full-back Lehi Hopoate darted over from dummy half on the back of some good play by Feledy and Fainu. Hooker Ollie Cummins converted the try from out wide for a 6-all scoreline.
Five minutes after half-time, the Sea Eagles lost forward Rene Bagon to the sin-bin after pushing a Parramatta player over following a penalty.
The Eels took advantage when Sanders stepped past three defenders to score next to the posts. He converted his own try for a 12-6 lead with Manly still short a player.
A penalty goal to Sanders in the 49th minute stretched the lead to 14-6 with 11 minutes remaining.
The Eels then dropped the ball from the re-start with Manly punishing the home side when Fainu showed great acceleration to carve the defence up to score a superb try under the posts. Cummins converted for a 14-12 scoreline with eight minutes remaining.
Fainu then delivered a superb offload to send Feledy on a 35 metre run as he weaved his way past three defenders to score under the posts in a great captain’s run. Cummins converted for an 18-14 lead to Manly with three minutes left.
The Sea Eagles secured victory inside the final minute when Hopoate finished off a great play down the right side to score his second try to send the team into wild celebrations. The ball went through several hands after Feledy picked up a loose pass inside his own half.
Outside of the final 10 minutes, there wasn’t too much to get excited about in this match with new Manly Coach Adam McEwan knowing there is still plenty of work to be done.
However, it’s never easy to secure a win against the Eels at Cabramatta and McEwan’s men showed tremendous spirit to fight back with Fainu, Feledy and Cummins leading the way.