Manly Sea Eagles have come from eighth position, and fourteen points down, to claim the last Holden Cup premiership, 20-18 in the curtain raiser this afternoon at ANZ Stadium.
This afternoon completed a remarkably journey for the Sea Eagles, they got into the finals series, on points difference, now they are champions. They took the long road going through minor premiers Cronulla, St George Illawarra and North Queensland to get this game. Add to that, they were down 14-nil early, against a Parramatta Eels side that looked bigger, stronger and destined for the cup.
Young half Dylan Brown belied his 17 year old status, being the first footballer born in the 2000s to play, sliced through in only the second minute. Next it was the hulking presence of Denzal Tonise, the ball was turned under for the monster to dive across, added to another goal from Brown made it 14-nothing with as long taken off the clock.
For Manly, once they got some possession, the points flowed. Tevita Funa got them off the duck egg finishing off a lovely backline movement before it was his outside man, Bilal Maarbani latched onto a deft grubber from Cade Cust to reduce the defict to 14-10 at the half.
All the momentum had swung to the Eagles, it only took three minutes from the resumption, to even the ledger. The two Sea Eagles halves, Cust and former union man, Tom Wright constructed a nice move that sent strapping secondrower, Blake Andrews over.
As the heat continued to take toll, the Eagles dominated possession, as the Eels fumbled it thrice on return sets. For that possession they weren't able to crack a resolute Eels defensive line, as the clock ticked into the final fifteen minutes.
It started from a Oregon Kaufusi tackle to deny a rampaging Haumole Olakau'atu. From that, the Eels charged downfield and it was Greg Lelesiuao, a youngster with massive wraps that put them back into the lead. The Eels ran it on the final play, stripping numbers down the right for Lelesiuao to stroll across, as agonisingly Brown struck the upright with his conversion.
Fittingly in the final Holden Cup Grand Final, after some memorable moments, it came down the final set. Sea Eagles camped on the Eels line, it seemed the set was headed nowhere until a beautiful pass, combined with a wonderful line run from Keith Titmuss to swandive over.
Locked at 18-all, Funa had the chance, right besides the upright, to make the Sea Eagles, the final Holden Cup champions. Taking his time, he stared down the uprights and sailed the kick between the sticks and crown eighth placed Manly Sea Eagles as champions.