Manly Warringah Sea Eagles recorded a 38-10 win over the Balmain Tigers at Lottoland today in the final round of the SG Ball Cup competition.
The victory leaves the Sea Eagles on top of the ladder by one point subject to weekend results.
The top two teams don't play in the first matches of finals next weekend.
The Sea Eagles gave away an early penalty in the first set of the match on the halfway line but made up for it by forcing an error from the Balmain side ten metres out. Both sides opened the match with some strong hit-ups.
Manly winger Cameron Brown had a chance to score in the fifth minute as he chased down halfback Jamie Humphreys’ kick to the corner, but was unable to get a hold of the ball in the air, turning it over in the process.
The big forward pack of Manly linked up to score in the 8th minute when lock Siua Fotu ran the ball hard at the line before offloading to forward Faafetai Autagavaia who went over next to the post. Humphreys converted for a 6-0 lead.
The Sea Eagles then went back to back from the re-start when Brown caught the ball and ran down the sideline before passing it to centre Tolutau Koula who ducked in and out of defenders. He flicked it back inside to Brown to cap off a stunning try three minutes after the last. Humphreys converted to take the score to 12-0.
Balmain got their first points on the board in the 16th minute as centre Livai Saukuru broke past three defender to score. He missed his own conversion from the sideline for a 12-4 scoreline.
Off the back of another error from the Sea Eagles, Balmain pounced as second-rower Cougar Wheeler pushed past two defenders to score next to the post, with just over five minutes to play. Saukuru converted the try to make the score 12-10 in the 29th minute.
Full-back Kaeo Weekes was comfortable under the high ball and helped keep his side ahead, beating the defenders and catching the ball 15 metres out from his own line before breaking away, eventually being dragged down at the 40-metre line.
Balmain went close to taking the lead just before the half, but were held out thanks to some strong goal-line defence from the home team, with the score remaining 12-10 in favour of Manly as they went into the sheds for half-time.
Six minutes into the second half, Manly five-eighth Krystian Mapapalangi threw an excellent cut-out pass to winger Uluaki Tuipulotu who dived over near the sideline for his first try. Humphreys missed the conversion to bring the score to 16-10
The Sea Eagles continued strong with their momentum, as hooker Gordon Chan Kum Tong made a break down the left edge. His strong run allowed for Brown to grab the ball and turn the defenders inside out before scoring three minutes after the previous try. Humphreys converted from the sideline for a 22-10 scoreline.
Another try off the kick-off for the Manly side saw Tuipulotu grabbing his second for the match in the 42nd minute and scoring his side’s third within six minutes. Fotu was big in the leadup to the try, breaking through the line off the restart and making it past the opposition’s 40. Humphreys failed to convert, making the score 26-10.
Manly maintained their strength in defence, despite the number of errors further up the field, holding out Balmain on two separate occasions with eight minutes to play in the match.
Fullback Kaeo Weekes found his name on the scoresheet in the 64th minute. Koula showed blistering speed to break down the sideline after taking a good Humphreys pass before he put a kick in for Weekes. The fullback tried to kick the ball and hit it with his shin, eventually grounding the ball metres from the deadball line. Humphreys converted to extend the lead to 32-10.
The Sea Eagles scored another amazing try, similar to last night’s in the first grade, as they broke out of a scrum. Koula received the ball and kicked it downfield before racing away to regather it 20 metres out. With the Balmain defence bunched, the ball was shifted to the right edge, where forward James Malauulu scored an easy try to close out the game. Humphreys slotted the conversion from the sideline as the siren sounded for the 38-10 win.
Manly now wait for results from the Bulldogs and Roosters matches to find out their fate for the first week of the SG Ball Cup finals.