A hat-trick of tries to powerful winger Sanele Aukusitino saw the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles record a superb 25-18 win over the Parramatta Eels in round 11 of the NSWRL Jersey Flegg Cup.
In a very entertaining game played under lights at Ringrose Park, Wentworthville, on Saturday night, the Sea Eagles dominated the first half to race to a commanding 24-10 lead with Aukisitino scoring all three of his tries.
The Eels then fought back to trail by six late in the second half before Manly half-back Jamie Humphreys calmly landed the match winning field goal to secure victory.
Manly got off to a dream start when Aukusitino leapt high to take to take a well-placed bomb from half-back Jamie Humphreys to score in the corner in the second minute. Humphreys converted from the sideline for a 6-0 lead.
Three minutes later, Aukusitino powered his way through some flimsy defence after the ball was shifted right through the backline. Humphreys converted for a 12-0 lead.
Weekes then grabbed the Sea Eagles’ third try when he sliced through the defence to swoop on a Humphreys’ grubber kick to score next to the posts. Humphreys converted to give Manly an 18-0 lead in as many minutes.
Aukusitino then crossed for his hat-trick three minutes later when he bumped off the Eels half-back to score in the corner. Humphreys converted for a 24-0 lead after 23 minutes.
The Eels then hit back with two tries in four minutes. The first came after Manly winger Cameron Brown spilt a crossfield kick for Toni Mataele to score before a blindside raid saw winger Turoa Williams dive over for a 24-10 scoreline at the break.
Parramatta basically camped themselves inside Manly’s quarter for the first five minutes of the second half with the Sea Eagles forced to dig deep on their line.
After holding up Eels lock Brock Parker under the posts, the pressure finally told when hooker David Tui crashed through three defenders to score out wide for a 24-14 scoreline.
Williams then crossed for his second try nine minutes later after the Eels shifted the ball left for the winger to finish off a 50 metre try to get the home side back to 24-18 after 49 minutes.
Manly centre Fletcher Myers then showed his great defensive capabilities when he pulled off a trysaving tackle on forward Toni Mataele for him to lose the ball inches from the line.
The Sea Eagles were then left a man short for 10 minutes after Brown was lucky to stay on the field after a dangerous spear tackle on Mataele. He was placed on report.
With Brown off, Manly were again forced to dig deep but the Sea Eagles defence stood firm after several attacking raids.
The Sea Eagles were then rewarded for their hard work when Humphreys landed his field goal in the 67th minute for a 25-18 lead following a strong run by forward Soaia Moala that saw him pulled down short of the line.
Manly Coach Adam McEwen said his side stood up when it counted.
“They were brilliant. There is so much potential in this team,’’ McEwen said.
“I’m really proud of the character and tenacity the boys displayed in finishing off the game defensively.
“They played a great first half and executed the game plan perfectly. In previous weeks, we would have conceded, so it’s a great victory to build belief amongst the team.”
The win was Manly's fourth victory of the season and moves the Sea Eagles to ninth place.