A hat-trick to exciting young full-back Kaeo Weekes has seen the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles keep their Jersey Flegg Cup finals hopes alive at 4 Pines Park today.
In a match played in light rain at times, the Sea Eagles led 12-10 at half-time before finishing strongly to record a thrilling 26-16 win over the third placed St George-Illawarra Dragons.
The win sees the Sea Eagles move into eighth place with six games and a bye remaining before the finals.
The Sea Eagles were boosted by the return of NRL squad players Kaeo Weekes, Jamie Humphreys, Zac Fulton and Alec Tuitavake, who had been playing NSW Cup for Blacktown Workers over the past fortnight.
Manly were on song early with their defence to stop several attacking raids from the Dragons in the opening five minutes.
Their hard work was rewarded when lock Zac Fulton offloaded in traffic to half-back Jamie Humphreys who found exciting young full-back Kaeo Weekes in support.
Weekes found open space before using his speed to beat several defenders to score a superb try under the posts. Humphreys converted for a 6-0 lead after 11 minutes.
The Dragons responded two minutes later through a try to prop Jackson Shereb. Winger Jack Bostock converted for a 6-all scoreline.
The Sea Eagles went to a 12-6 lead in the 22nd minute when Humphreys converted a try to prop Alec Tuitavake next to the posts after a lovely pass from hooker and captain Gordon Chan Kum Tong.
The Dragons hit back five minutes later when winger Cooper Roberts dived over in the right corner for a 12-10 scoreline which remained that way to half-time.
Seven minutes later, the Dragons took the lead when second-rower Duke Grant used his strength to crash through five-eighth Flynn Angles-Corke to score out wide. Bostock converted for a 16-12 lead.
The Sea Eagles were then forced to dig deep on their line for an extended period of time to repel the Dragons raids before managing to get the ball back with 15 minutes remaining.
Manly drew level with 10 minutes remaining when they kept the ball alive from a Humphreys bomb for strong winger Sanele Aukusitino to score out wide. Humphreys failed to convert for a 16-all scoreline with eight minutes remaining.
A minute later, the Sea Eagles were in again when Weekes was awarded a penalty try after being deliberately taken off the ball next to the posts following a grubber kick from Humphreys and some good lead up work by Chan Kum Tong.
Humphreys converted from in front of the posts for a 22-16 lead with six minutes remaining.
Weekes then sealed victory when he took the line on to dive over for his third try of the game with three minutes remaining for the 26-16 lead.
The Sea Eagles now play the Newcastle Knights at 4 Pines Park on Saturday, July 16, at 3.15pm in the curtain raiser to the NRL match.
Sea Eagles team vs Dragons
1 Kaeo Weekes, 2 Sanele Aukusitino, 3 Fletcher Myers, 4 Charlie Thompson, 5 Cameron Brown, 6 Flynn Angles-Corke,7 Jamie Humphreys, 8 Sosaia Moala, 9 Gordon Chan Kum Tong (c),10 Alec Tuitavake, 11 Jason Smyth, 12 Samuela Fainu, 13 Zac Fulton; interchange: 14 Oliver Clements,15 Soakimi Fakaua, 16 Seturi Lakopo, 19 Aufaga Autagavaia; reserve: 17 Jonathan Chan