Manly Warringah Sea Eagles suffered a costly 38-4 loss in the race to the Jersey Cup finals at 4 Pines Park tonight.
With the top five teams playing in the finals, the eighth placed Manly sat four points out of fifth place heading into the Round 21 match against the 10th placed Eels, who are now equal with the Sea Eagles on the ladder.
The Sea Eagles received a boost with the inclusion of NRL players in full-back Kaeo Weekes and lock Zac Fulton for the match.
Manly started strongly and were unlucky not to score through hooker and captain Gordon Chan Kum Tong after he was held up over the line on the last tackle of their first set.
The Eels were forced into a kick 30 metres out from their own line in the 15th minute after a strong defensive set from Manly. With optimal field position, the Sea Eagles pushed downfield and were awarded a penalty 20 metres out from Parramatta’s line.
It looked like Manly had crossed for a try not too soon after the penalty but unfortunately the play was called back for an obstruction, cancelling out fullback Kaeo Weekes’ effort.
The Eels, off the back of a penalty of their own, made their way to the other end of the field to score. Halfback Ethan Sanders threw a cut-out pass to his winger Moala Graham-Taufa, who dived over in the corner for a 4-0 lead with 14 minutes remaining in the first half.
Parramatta scored their second three minutes later after a half-field effort from Sanders, who beat two chasing defenders to ground the ball for a try and an 8-0 scoreline. The try came moments after a chance from the Manly side, in which Chan Kum Tong broke through the middle of the field after an inside pass from the ruck.
A charge down gifted the Eels possession and a fresh set at the halfway mark, leading to their third try through lock Brock Parker after he ran off a short ball from the ruck. Centre Corey Fenning converted for a 14-0 with just over five minutes remaining in the first half.
The Sea Eagles had chances in the final two minutes before half-time, with one coming just seconds before the siren. Five-eighth Flynn Angles-Corke attempted a chip over the top of the defence, aiming it towards the post after taking possession on the right edge of the field. The ball bounced in favour of the home side, but was batted over the deadball line, ensuring the Eels held a 14 point lead at the break.
A quick shift saw Weekes spin out of a tackle to score in the 39th minute for a 14-4 scoreline.
The Sea Eagles then had two chances in a matter of minutes. Latu Fainu and centre Fletcher Myers combined with the halfback breaking through the line and offloading to Myers, who had the ball knocked out of his hands at the line. Two minutes later, second-rower Faleata Iosefa was denied after a penalty in the lead up to the play.
With a penalty and possession in their favour, the Eels scored on the left edge after another good shift in play. Graham-Taufa found himself on the end of the play for his second try for a 20-4 lead with just under 20 minutes to play.
Parramatta prop Peter Taateo scored five minutes later after some solid footwork at the line, running a sharp line back under the ruck to fool the defence. Fenning converted for a 26-4 scoreline.
In a matter of minutes, the Eels had another through utility Jacob Davis after a smart scoot play out of the ruck, finding the defender flat on his feet. Fenning’s conversion was successful for a 32-4 lead.
Parramatta were running rampant, scoring through fullback Dantoray Lui after a lovely draw-and-pass from winger Turoa Williams after he made a break down the sideline. Fenning converted to take the score to 38-4 with six minutes remaining.
Centre Fletcher Myers scored after the siren for the Sea Eagles after good worl from Weekes and Chan Kum Tong.