Sunday March 23, 2014 @ 03:00pm
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Parramatta Eels
Brookvale Oval
Half time Score: 10
Crowd: 14135
Half time Score: -

Match Review

Manly were hot favourites going into the game, following their disposal of the highly rated Rabbitohs last weekend, while the Eels were coming off a dismantling at the hands of a rampant Roosters outfit. The Sea Eagles indeed appeared deserved favourites in the first half, capitalising twice on field position that was continually gifted to them by the Eels, mostly through penalties. The first try came about from some nice lead up work by Jamie Lyon, who had moved in to play five-eighth for the injured Kieran Foran. The passes along the Manly backline eventually found Steve Matai, who strolled over in the 8th minute of play.

The Eels created plenty of opportunities themselves, with Willie Tonga and Semi Radradra in particular causing trouble down the left-hand side on multiple occasions. However Manly's toughness and experience on defence mixed with some indifferent execution from the Eels meant they couldn't crack the tryline. Their situation worsened when Manly fullback Peta Hiku darted out from dummy half after a quick play-the-ball from Lyon, beating a couple of defenders and crashing over. Lyon's conversion extended Manly's lead to 10-0. The two teams continued to trade attacking opportunities until the half time whistle sounded.

Despite some scrappy attack the Eels would have felt they were well in the game at halftime, and showed it by flying out of the blocks to start the second half. First it was Vai Toutai who opened the scoring for the Eels in the 42nd minute by latching onto a long pass from lock Kenny Edwards that had the Manly defence stretched. Then just four minutes later it was the Tonga/Radradra combination again as a nice pass from Tonga put Radradra into space, the big Fijian beating multiple tackles on the way to the tryline. Joseph Paulo was looking out-of-sorts as the Eels goalkicker and he missed the regulation conversion here, meaning Manly still held a slim lead.

Manly then bounced back and enjoyed multiple uses of the football. They were rewarded for their endeavour when Lyon followed up on a Matai tackle bust as the Sea Eagles five-eighth crashed over. His conversion extended the Manly lead to 8 points, but despite further attacking opportunities they couldn't land the knock-out blow. Then just as it appeared Manly had done enough to get home, the Eels surged back into action. First it was Radradra for his second in the 67th minute with Tonga the provider. Then in the 73rd minute came the try of the game as the Eels stunned the Brookvale faithful by taking the lead. Radradra, who had been everywhere for Parramatta, grubbered ahead for himself, then regathered and flung the ball to a trailing Jarryd Hayne in the one motion. Hayne then found Nathan Peats who crashed over. The video referees confirmed momentum had carried Peats to the line and it looked as if the Eels would be rewarded for their persistence with an unlikely win.

However, the Sea Eagles didn't give up and displayed their fighting qualities by attacking the Eels line as the clock wound down. In the end it wasn't the pass that broke the Eels line but the kick, as a Daly Cherry-Evans bomb in the 79th minute was batted back by winger Cheyse Blair. It found a waiting Matai who strolled over for his second try and more importantly the game winner. Brookvale Oval went wild as the video referee confirmed it was all legitimate and the thrilling see-saw second half came to an end.

The Sea Eagles will be happy they managed to pull that one out of the fire, but certainly won't rest on their laurels as their attack lacked its usual crispness. The Eels meanwhile, exposed Manlys defence at times, particularly on the edges where Radradra looks to be improving every game, ably assisted by Willie Tonga. They defended well in patches and showed heart to claw themselves back into the game on more than one occasion. However in the end they conceded too many penalties and paid the price for gifting a classy side like the Sea Eagles too much field position.

Players of the Match

3. Anthony Watmough

2. Semi Radradra

1. Steve Matai

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