Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles centre Steve Matai scored a last-minute try to give his side a thrilling 22-18 victory over the Parramatta Eels at Brookvale Oval on Sunday.
A crowd of 14,138 filled the suburban ground to witness an enthralling contest as the Eels fought bravely and took the lead 7 minutes from full-time, before Matai broke their hearts.
The Sea eagles lost five eighth Kieran Foran to a calf injury before kick-off, moving Jamie Lyon to the halves and handing a debut to Tony Satini.
Matai opened the scoring in the 7th minute with an unconverted try out wide. It was a tight first half, as the Eels showed plenty of fight against last season’s grand finalists. The Sea Eagles’ second try wasn’t posted until the 30th minute when impressive young fullback Peta Hiku scurried over from dummy half. Lyon converted for a 10-0 lead and that’s how the two sides entered half time, with the Eels much better than last week’s drubbing at the hands of the Sydney Roosters.
The Eels started the second half with a bang, adding two unconverted tries to Vai Toutai and Semi Radradra. With no recognised goal kicker, it was up to Joseph Paulo to convert tries and he struggled.
After an hour of absorbing rugby league, the Sea Eagles edged further in front with a converted try to Jamie Lyon. With the score now 16-8, the Eels were faced another blow out scoreline if they didn’t show some steel in defence.
Radradra was having a fine game on the flanks and his second try, unconverted, took the score to 16-12 and the Eels were right back in the contest.
Incredibly, they took the lead when Radradra chipped ahead, batted the ball to Jarryd Hayne who found Nathan Peats to score a remarkable try. Paulo converted to give the Eels a well-deserved lead.
Unfortunately for long-suffering Eels supporters, Matai’s try at the death stole the game for the home side, falling agonisingly short against one of the best teams in the NRL.
Although they lost, Brad Arthur’s men can take plenty away from the match; if they play like that every week they will win plenty of games.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 22 (Matai 2, Lyon, Hiku tries; Lyon 3 goals) defeated Parramatta Eels 18 (Radradra 2, Peats, Tautai tries; Paulo goal) at Brookvale Oval.