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2017 Harold Matthews Cup - Preliminary Finals Wrap
Sean Teuma has all the reports and pics from today's NSWRL Harold Matthews Cup preliminary finals.
All listed times are AEST (NSW/QLD/VIC/ACT).
Manly booked their spot in next weekend's Harold Matthews Grand Final with a 30-24 win over Parramatta at UOW Jubilee oval today.
It appeared that they were going to put the game to bed before half-time, as they raced out to a 22-0 lead in the space of 14 minutes, before Parramatta launched a spirited comeback, eventually falling short.
Albert Hopoate continued his hot run of form, terrorising the Eels defence and scoring a vital try just minutes before half-time. Manly's forward pack led from the front as well, playing a key part in their side's rampant start to the game.
Manly's first try came just two minutes into the game, after Parramatta made a mistake bringing the ball back out of their own half, allowing Uluaki Tuipulotu to score in the corner.
They didn't have to wait long for their second, as Hopoate shrugged off a defender and found Ben Trbojevic, taking the score to 10-0 after just six minutes.
Five-eighth Kaeo Weekes crossed next, before a rampaging Filimaua Filimaua-Tau paved a path for Jacob Ratcliff to score with ease, giving the Sea Eagles an imposing 22-0 advantage inside 16 minutes of play.
The tide had to turn, and it did just a minute later when Campbell Byrd got on the outside of his marker, crossing out wide, before fullback Tevita Masima had the first of his two tries not long after, bridging the deficit back to 12.
With Parramatta firing and looking to cut further into the margin, a controversial call went against the Eels after Manly dropped the ball 10 metres out from their own line. A scuffle ensued, with Manly receiving a penalty from the incident, letting them off the hook.
From the next set, Manly made full use of their reprieve, as Hopoate crossed just moments before half-time, giving them a handy 26-10 lead at the break.
Despite trailing by 16 points, it was the Eels that struck first in the second half, as Masima used some fancy footwork to pick up his second try of the morning.
The next ten minutes was a tough tussle as both teams looked for a breakthrough, before Samuel Hughes finished off an impressive set from Parramatta, taking the score to 26-18 with 14 minutes to play.
Whilst Parramatta had the momentum, they faltered when working the ball out of their half, giving Manly quality field position, of which Keegan Turner took full advantage, pushing the lead out to two converted tries with under seven minutes remaining.
The Eels managed to pick up one of the remaining tries they needed to force extra time, as David Hollis scored after they received a penalty, although it proved too little too late.
Ultimately it was Manly's early dominance that saw them victorious, as the early 22-point advantage proved too much to overcome, despite some flashes of brilliance that made for a thrilling finish.
They haven't won the competition since its inception in 1970, however they will believe in their chances after winning their first two finals games by a combined 82 points, and accounting for a strong Parramatta side.
In the second Preliminary Final at Kogarah, a one-sided first half display has seen Newcastle dominate Canberra to the tune of 50-16.
Newcastle scored 40 unanswered points in the first half, putting the result beyond doubt early on.
Bradman Best was a standout for the Knights, bringing up his hat-trick within 15 minutes of play, showcasing his electric speed and evasiveness that the Raiders just couldn't contain.
It was Best that had the scoreboard attendant working after just four minutes, bursting through the defensive line to score with ease. After earning a repeat set, they extended the lead to 12 through Mitchell Black.
Best made another line break in the twelfth minute, again showing his acceleration to blitz through the defence. His hat-trick came just three minutes later, capping off a dominant opening period for the fullback.
Canberra had their first chance in Newcastle's half in the following set, however a clever pick-up by Knights prop Christian Ma'anaima defused a deft grubber kick. Newcastle made the most of it, as a soaring Patrick Achurch moved them into opposition territory, before Kobe Davies used a neat sidestep to score on the next play.
A line break to Sione Tuitupou Kutu put Newcastle on the front foot again, as Max Buderus set up Riley Meyn to bring the lead out to 36 points. They completed a near-perfect half of football when captain Jaron Purcell used his size and strength to give them a 40-0 buffer at the break.
Despite having little possession in the first thirty minutes, it was Canberra that got things underway in the second half, as halfback Jordan Williams made a burst from close to half-way, proving too elusive for his opponents and getting his team on the board.
A fortuitous bounce of the ball from a Raiders kick allowed the Knights to burst back into their half of the field, with Darcy Heaney scoring off a kick to the corner. They reached the half-century of points just minutes later when Meyn secured his second try.
Canberra earned a penalty for a late hit on winger Cooper O'Connor, and scored off the ensuing set through Nicholas Hall, who showed an impressive burst of pace to get on the outside of his defender. They scored a final consolation try when Aidan Gaffey ran an explosive line, getting past Best and scoring under the posts.
The win gives the Knights their eleventh win of the season, and they'll have the chance to complete the perfect year in next weekend's Grand Final. They've won the Harold Matthews Cup twice before, with their latest win coming in 2015.
Newcastle Knights (50)
Tries: Bradman Best 3, Riley Meyn 2, Darcy Heaney, Mitchell Black, Kobe Davies, Jaron Purcell
Goals: Max Buderus 7
Canberra Raiders (16)
Tries: Jordan Williams, Nicolas Hall, Aidan Gaffey
Goals: Junior Tupou 2