Manly Warringah Sea Eagles suffered a 36-20 loss to the Parramatta Eels at a sold out 4 Pines Park tonight in round 21 of the Telstra Premiership.
The Sea Eagles must now win their four remaining games if they are to have any chance of making the finals in September.
Manly welcomed back Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Tolu Koula, Haumole Olakau’atu, and Toff Sipley after missing last week’s loss to the Roosters for personal reasons.
The Eels got off to a flying start with two tries in 10 minutes to winger Maika Sivo for an 8-0 lead.
A cut-out pass from fullback Clint Gutherson saw Sivo score his first try before five-eighth Dylan Brown linked with Gutherson who put a grubber kick through for Sivo to score his second.
The Sea Eagles had a handful of chances in the first 20 minutes and shortly after it finally paid off with centre Tolutau Koula crashing over for his fifth try of the season.
Captain Daly Cherry-Evans placed an inch perfect crossfield kick for the flying Koula, who ran in and leapt ahead of the surrounding players to crash down with the ball. Reuben Garrick converted from next to the posts for an 8-6 scoreline.
Chaos ensued in the following minutes. Cherry-Evans put a bomb up, which was allowed to bounce and was taken by the chasing second-rower Andrew Davey who threw the ball to nobody. As the ball rolled towards the sideline, Saab batted the ball back into Davey, who placed a rare kick aiming towards the posts. Sivo knocked the ball for Brown to be offside. Garrick converted for an 8-all scoreline.
A penalty inside Parramatta’s half and a good shift in play resulted in the Sea Eagles second try through Saab in the 28th minute. Five-eighth Kieran Foran ran at the line before cutting out centre Morgan Harper to find his winger, who weaved his way out of two tackles to put the ball down for a try. Garrick converted from the sideline to give his side a 14-8 lead.
The Eels hit back with just over five minutes to play and scored through centre Tom Opacic as Gutherson grabbed his third try assist after picking up a loose pass from his second-rower and offloading to Opacic on his outside. The fullback converted the try to bring the scores level once again at 14-all which remained that way to half-time.
Manly winger Christian Tuipulotu scored four minutes into the second half to extend his side's lead to 18-14. The ball broke free from the scrum and made its way to Garrick, who held the ball up before passing out to Tuipulotu who wrestled past his opposing winger to ground the ball for his 10th try of the season. Foran was integral to the try as he forced an error from Mahoney prior to the scrum with a sharp grubber kick.
The bunker was brought in to refer a play four minutes later as Harper and lock Jake Trbojevic each thought that they’d scored. Cherry-Evans put a bomb kick up that was knocked back by Gutherson, with the ball then rolling towards the tryline. The Sea Eagles were appealing for a penalty try as Eels centre Will Penisini appeared to have held back Harper, who eventually knocked it on whilst trying to ground the ball.
Parramatta unsuccessfully challenged a penalty against them, with Opacic ultimately being penalised for escorting the kick. Manly chose to take the shot at two points from next to the posts, with Garrick successfully converting to take the score to 20-14 in the 52nd minute.
The away side hit back with a try of their own three minutes later through winger Waqa Blake in a sensational diving effort. Halfback Jake Arthur threw an arching pass over the top to the winger, who grounded the ball millimetres from the sideline for a 20-18 scoreline.
The Manly faithful breathed a temporary sigh of relief as the Eels were denied a try in the 59th minute. Lock Ryan Matterson looked to have gone over untouched after the ball ricocheted out of second-rower Andrew Davey’s hands into his, resulting in a double knock-on and a Parramatta scrum 10 metres out.
With the Eels still looming in front of the Sea Eagles tryline, Saab stepped up once again to take an important catch. Arthur placed a kick towards the corner, which was taken perfectly by the flying Saab who won the ball back for his team.
Parramatta created something from nothing and scored a try in the 61st minute that started from their own 40 metre line. Second-rower Shaun Lane took two defenders with a run and offloaded to Gutherson, who blitzed away from Garrick to score. He converted his own try to gain a 24-20 lead for his side.
The Eels had their sixth try with just over ten minutes to play in the match as Penisini got on the end of an Arthur grubber kick to ground the ball. Gutherson converted to take the lead out to ten points, 30-20.
Brown scored for the Eels in the 72nd minute to all but close out the match. The Parramatta five-eighth scored with a 60 metre effort and grounded the ball next to the posts, with Gutherson adding the extra two points for a 36-20 scoreline.
The Sea Eagles travel to Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast to play the Titans on Sunday August 14, 4.05pm in Round 22 of the NRL Telstra Premiership.