Manly Warringah Sea Eagles suffered a frustrating 28-20 loss to the Illawarra Steelers in round three of the NSWRL Harold Matthews Cup today.
Following a first round loss and a bye last week, the Sea Eagles took their home game to Western Sydney at Aubrey Keech Reserve, Hinchinbrook, with 4 Pines Park unavailable.
The Steelers opened the scoring in the fifth minute through a try to lock Palu Tausala next to the posts. Half-back Kade Reed converted for a 6-0 lead.
The Sea Eagles hit back five minutes later when second-rower Mitchell Taotua used brute strength to carry several defenders over the line to score next to the posts. Half-back Jackson Cahill-Smith converted for a 6-all scoreline after 11 minutes.
Two minutes later, the Sea Eagles were in again after they shifted the ball to the left for winger Nepote Taufa to carry two defenders over with in the corner for a 10-6 lead. The try was not converted.
The Steelers drew level when winger Samson McAllister-Wood took a crossfield kick to score in the corner for a 10-all scoreline.
Illawarra then took a 16-10 lead when Clay Baldock converted a try after centre Hayden Buchanan crashed over next to the posts in the 20th minute. The score remained that way to half-time.
The Sea Eagles started the second half strongly and were rewarded with a fine try to full-back Lehi Hopoate after the exciting full-back showed his pace to beat several defenders in a 30 metre run to the line. Cahill-Smith converted for a 16-all scoreline after 35 minutes.
The Steelers replied quickly with a second try to Buchanan near the posts after a bad defensive read by the Sea Eagles from a mistake. Baldock converted for a 22-16 lead after 39 minutes.
Manly went close to scoring two minutes later but prop Kakile Leha lost the ball short of the line.
The Sea Eagles then responded well through a try to centre Maxwell Taotua out wide after it came off a great barnstorming run earlier from second-rower Roy Quiroz-Mapusa. Cahill Smith failed to convert to leave Manly trailing 22-20.
Unfortunately for Manly, another mistake by Manly from the kick-off eventually led to Illawarra scoring next to the posts through Tausala. Baldock converted for a 28-20 lead with nine minutes remaining.
The Sea Eagles tried valiantly to pull the lead back in and lost two players to the sin bin inside the final minute but some poor discipline and too many errors cost them dearly in the end to give Illawarra their first win following two heavy losses.