A dislocated shoulder injury to star full-back Tom Trbojevic combined with a controversial finish made for a tough night out in Parramatta for the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles.
Trbojevic was showing no ill effects of a corked thigh injury suffered in last week's Magic Round loss to Brisbane, and was almost back to his attacking best when he landed heavily on his left arm in trying to stop an Eels try.
Manly had second-rower Haumole Olakau'atu, prop Sean Keppie, and winger Christian Tuipulotu placed on report.
The Sea Eagles enjoyed a fine first half to lead 12-10 at the break with the Eels losing half-back Mitchell Moses to the sin-bin in the 39th minute for a professional foul.
Parramatta appeared to have opened the scoring in the second minute only for the bunker to rule no try to full-back Clint Gutherson after the Eels player was deemed to be in front of the kicker.
The Sea Eagles struck first after 13 minutes through winger Reuben Garrick after a well timed pass from centre Morgan Harper. The highlight from that set happened a few tackles earlier, with the skillful Josh Schuster taking the ball off a kick deep in his own half and running 40 metres downfield to set up the team in good field position. Garrick converted his own try for a 6-0 lead.
Parramatta replied four minutes later through winger Hayze Perham after a good hold-up play and shift from their halves to trail 6-4.
In a back and forth battle, Manly extended their lead thanks to a try from Christian Tuipulotu in the 21st minute after a stunning cut-out pass from captain Daly Cherry-Evans, setting up the winger’s fourth try for the season. Garrick converted from the sideline to bring the score to 12-4.
Perham had his second try eight minutes after Manly’s last four-pointer thanks to a cut-out pass from Gutherson. Moses converted from the sideline to take the score to 12-10.
With just over a minute to play in the first half, Manly hooker Lachlan Croker darted out from dummy half to find open space to send Tom Trbojevic into the clear, only to be dragged down by Moses who, after review from the Bunker, was sin-binned for holding Trbojevic back.
The Sea Eagles scored three minutes after the break when Trbojevic streaked down field to send centre Morgan Harper over for a 16-10 lead.
Half-back Daly Cherry-Evans forced a one-on-one strip in the 50th minute on the way to Manly’s next try through Reuben Garrick. “DCE” placed an elegant grubber kick through to the in-goal for Garrick, who dived on the ball uncontested for his second try, taking their lead out to 20-10.
After some desperation passes and good offloads, the Eels hit back in the 60th minute with a try through centre Tom Opacic on the left edge. Moses converted for a 20-16 scoreline.
The Eels were denied a try three minutes later after a bunker review before Trbojevic was forced from the field with the shoulder injury.
Manly forward Sean Keppie was later sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle before Parramatta shifted the ball quickly to the left and looked set to score only for Tuipulotu to pull off a try saving tackle.
Unfortunately for a stunned Manly, Tuipulotu was penalised for a high shot with two minutes remaining.
“It wasn’t high. It was a good tackle. It’s a brave tackle, it was what you call a try saver," Manly coach Des Hasler said post match.
After a number of repeat sets from penalties, the Eels struck through centre Will Penisini in the corner. Moses converted from the sideline to give his side a 22-20 lead - their first of the match.
The Sea Eagles regained the ball from the re-start and had one last roll of the dice but were denied. Manly finished the match on the back of a heavy 9-2 penalty count against them.
Manly now travel to Melbourne to play the Storm in the first match of the NRL Tesltra Premiership’s Indigenous Round on Thursday May 26 at 7.50pm