Jack Harbidge reviews the big clash at Lottoland as league leaders the Parramatta Eels travel to the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles in the final game on Saturday. Here’s how the game went.
|2nd||Try Martin Tapau (Manly Warringah)||Manly Warringah 4-0|
|3rd||Goal Reuben Garrick (Manly Warringah)||Manly Warringah 6-0|
|14th||Try Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly Warringah)||Manly Warringah 10-0|
|15th||Goal Reuben Garrick (Manly Warringah)||Manly Warringah 12-0|
|16th||Try Danny Levi (Manly Warringah)||Manly Warringah 16-0|
|30th||Try Michael Jennings (Parramatta)||Manly Warringah 16-4|
|39th||Try Joel Thompson (Manly Warringah)||Manly Warringah 20-4|
|40th||Goal Reuben Garrick (Manly Warringah)||Manly Warringah 22-4|
|54th||Try Waqa Blake (Parramatta)||Manly Warringah 22-8|
|72nd||Try Michael Jennings (Parramatta)||Manly Warringah 22-12|
|72nd||Goal Clinton Gutherson (Paramatta)||Manly Warringah 22-14|
|79th||Try George Jennings (Parramatta)||Manly Warringah 22-18|
Both teams started in complete contrast to their form over their last few results in the competition: Manly were enthused and full of energy, while Parramatta came out of the blocks distinctively flat and disjointed. It wasn’t long before the disparity was reflected on the scoreboard, with Martin Tapau scoring from close range on Manly’s second set of the game after being given good field position from a George Jennings error.
The two sides traded sets until Dylan Brown put his side on the back foot with a kick out on the full and gifted the ball to Manly just inside the Eels’ half. Manly built through the following set and Danny Levi darted at the line from within 10 metres to score, only to be disallowed by the Bunker for a double movement. Manly continued to press and soon after Daly Cherry-Evans went over untouched on the right edge.
Having been denied minutes earlier, Danny Levi backed up Cherry-Evans’ try and sold a dummy to three Eels defenders to cross from short range. Having gone down 16-0 in a shocking first 20 minutes, the Eels began to wake up and managed to stay in the game with a try from Michael Jennings with 10 minutes of the half to go, closing the deficit to 12 points.
The second half provided considerably more drama than the first, with the Bunker awarding the opening try of the half in contentious fashion. Parramatta looked more likely to get the first try, and went close with Reed Mahoney knocking on near the line: it reduced a significant amount of pressure on Manly with just under eight minutes gone in the second half. Manly managed to build on the swing of momentum and a sublime 40/20 from Lachlan Croker put the Sea Eagles in great field position to put the game even further out of reach. In the process of setting up for a shift near the line, Tapau looked to have been stripped in a two-man tackle and Waqa Blake set off to score a 90-metre breakaway try, with the Bunker ruling Tapau aimed to offload, making the change of possession legal – much to Cherry-Evans’ disgust.
With the lead cut to 12 points, Parramatta battled to get back into the game, and having been given plenty of opportunities by Manly, they failed to capitalise until they were given yet more cheap field position in the final 10 minutes. The Eels set up a nice shift left off the back of a knock-on from the playing-injured Moses Suli; Michael Jennings went over for his second through Suli’s channel to add insult to injury. With Clint Gutherson managing to convert for the first time in the game, the Eels were set up to overcome an eight-point deficit in the final seven minutes of the game.
Having been under the majority of pressure, Manly tired but put up a strong defence in the closing stages and held out until just moments before full-time, where George Jennings went over to give Parramatta one shot at levelling the scores off the kick off after Gutherson rejected the conversion after the try. Unfortunately for Parramatta, they knocked-on off the kick-off and Manly sealed the win.
While not a positive one, the game’s highlight (and the turning point) was undoubtedly Waqa Blake’s breakaway try partway through the second half. Aside from the muddled call from the refereeing team – which is a fairly generous description given the consensus reaction to the Bunker’s call – Blake’s ability to break and get to the line despite being seemingly void of energy from a fair way out, having been on the back foot defending an 18-point deficit, was the key play that changed the balance of the game. On the other hand, it was interesting – albeit not shocking – to see another contentious call in the return leg of this fixture after the debate around the forward pass call in round four.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles: 1. Brendan Elliot, 2. Jorge Taufua, 3. Brad Parker, 4. Moses Suli, 5. Reuben Garrick, 6. Cade Cust, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Taniela Paseka, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Martin Taupau, 11. Joel Thompson, 12. Curtis Sironen, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Lachlan Croker, 15. Jack Gosiewski, 16. Sean Keppie, 17. Corey Waddell.
Parramatta Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson, 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Waqa Blake, 19. George Jennings, 6. Dylan Brown, 7. Jai Field, 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 9. Reed Mahoney, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Shaun Lane, 17. Brad Takairangi, 13. Nathan Brown. Interchange: 14. David Gower, 15. Stefano Utoikamanu, 16. Marata Niukore, 21. Andrew Davey.