Manly Warringah Sea Eagles have finished the regular season in fourth spot following a 46-18 win over the Nth Qld Cowboys in Townsville tonight.
The last time the Sea Eagles finished in the top four was the 2014 NRL season, in which they finished second.
Full-back Tom Trbojevic scored three tries with his brother, Jake, crossing for a double.
Winger Reuben Garrick broke two records in the match, firstly passing Hazem El Masri’s record for most points in a regular season of 288 set in 2004.
He then joined El Masri and Brett Hodgson in the record books for 300 points in a season, finishing the game on 304 points.
The Sea Eagles welcomed the return of Sean Keppie and Taniela Paseka as they attempted to make it four wins in a row to secure the vital fourth spot.
The Cowboys scored the opening try in the second minute through a long-range effort from full-back Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow. Manly winger Jason Saab closed the gap with his speed but was unable to bring him down. Centre Valentine Holmes converted for a 6-0 lead.
Manly's first points came in the 14th minute with a stunning leap into the air from Saab for his 23rd try of the season. Halfback Daly Cherry-Evans put a well-placed bomb to the right corner where the defender was flat-footed. Saab timed his jump and latched onto the ball before diving over. Winger Reuben Garrick made the conversion to level the score at 6-all.
The Trbojevic brothers, Jake and Tom, combined to score the side's second try with three minutes to play in the half as Jake grounded the ball under the posts for his second try of the season.
Cherry-Evans, Dylan Walker, and Tom Trbojevic set up the attack before 'Turbo’ found the gap to drag in the fullback before passing it to his brother. Garrick made the conversion for a 12-6 lead to break El Masri's record.
Manly switched on and scored another try in the very next set for a stunning end to the half after a very tense opening 40 minutes.
Foran had the ball on his own 40 metre line and popped the ball up to ‘Turbo’ who ran underneath him. The superstar fullback found a gap in the defence and outpaced Holmes with some excellent footwork to score a 60 metre try. Garrick made the conversion from the sideline to take the score to 18-6 as the siren went for half-time.
The Cowboys scored the first try of the second half in the 47th minute through prop Jordan McLean. Holmes converted from next to the posts for an 18-12 scoreline.
Saab shut down an almost 90 metre try after chasing down Cowboys winger Murray Taulagi 10 metres short of the line. The very next tackle, he got his hands onto an attempted pass to defuse the situation. The Cowboys eventually turned the ball over as they threw the ball over the sideline, bringing an end to a hectic period of football.
After being reviewed, Jake Trbojevic had his second try of the match in the 57th minute after a miraculous effort from Olakau’atu.
The second-rower chased down a Cherry-Evans grubber kick, which seemed to be going dead, and jumped over the dead-ball line before batting the ball back into the path of Jake to score. Garrick converted for a 24-12 lead.
Cowboys second-rower Ben Condon replied for his side with a try in the 63rd minute after a deflected grubber kick went in his favour. Holmes’ conversion was successful bringing the score to 24-18.
Manly took advantage of some sleepy defence to score in the 69th minute through Garrick. Cherry-Evans placed a kick behind the defenders and it looked like it was going to be taken by the Cowboys winger until Garrick came flying in, caught the ball and dived over for the try. He was unable to convert his own try for a 28-12 lead.
Tom Trbojevic then scored an unbelievable try three minutes later, beating nine defenders to cross for his 24th try of the season. Garrick converted from close range to bring up 300 points for the season and a 34-18 scoreline.
With two minutes to play, the Sea Eagles had yet another try through captain Cherry-Evans. ‘Turbo’ got the ball 30 metres out and snuck in behind the markers to find a gap in the defence. Cherry-Evans, who was supporting well, got the ball after Trbojevic dragged in the fullback and raced away for the four-pointer. Garrick’s conversion was successful, bringing the score to 40-18.
Tom Trbojevic had his hat-trick with a phenomenal try and potential try of the season on the cusp of the siren to close out an outstanding second half.
The ball started on their own dead ball line with Garrick, who raced away from a defender in his own in-goal. He ran 50 metres and passed it to Cherry-Evans with the half-back running 40 metres to put a grubber kick in for Trbojevic to score.
Garrick made the conversion from the sideline to make the score 46-18 as the siren sounded for full-time.
The win marked the first time since the 2004 NRL season that a side had lost its first four matches of the season to go on and make the top four.
The Sea Eagles play the Melbourne Storm in week one of the Finals next week, with the time and date to be announced.