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21 hours ago
Eels and Sea Eagles fight for glory in the final Holden Cup Grand Final ever.
Pictured: The most successful club of the Under 20's competition in its ten seasons - the Warriors - celebrate their 2011 premiership win
After 10 years of highlights, the under-20s competition comes to a close on Sunday afternoon. Therefore, it is fitting that its final instalment will see two in-form sides meet in what should be a highly entertaining contest to begin Grand Final proceedings. The Parramatta Eels have been arguably the form team of the competition as of late, winning nine of their past 10 games, including last week's 28-6 drubbing of the high-flying Panthers. In those nine wins, the Eels have starred in attack, posting on average 35 points per game whilst only conceding 16. However, that means little this week as Parramatta taken on a Manly side who have gained a reputation for being giant killers in recent weeks.
The Sea Eagles finished last year's Holden Cup competition in last place. Therefore, their eighth-placed standing at the end of this year's campaign would have been considered a significant step in the right direction. Yet, to the surprise of many, the Sea Eagles have made it all the way to the Grand Final, toppling Kalyn Ponga's Cowboys, the Minor Premiers Cronulla and the third-placed Dragons. In those three games, the Sea Eagles have scored an average of 35 points. Manly also finished the 2017 season with the second most points scored in the competition. Thus, spectacular tries will certainly be on show on Sunday afternoon as two potent attacking sides battle it out for the chance to be crowned the final champions of the Holden Cup.
In team news, the Eels have named the same side that downed Penrith last week. However, it is speculated that Reed Mahoney may start at hooker, with Denzal Tonise reverting to the front row and Sean Keppie taking his place on the bench.
Meanwhile, for the Sea Eagles, Zaan Weatherall and Josh Tuivaiti return on the bench, while Taniela Paseka is a chance to return from injury after being named in the extended squad.
Last Meeting: These two sides have not met this year since Round 1, when the Sea Eagles got the best of the Eels 38-20 at Lottoland.
Who to watch: For the home side, look no further than hooker Reed Mahoney. Mahoney was electric last weekend, breaking the line three times and busting three tackles in a strong performance that also included a solid 47 tackles. Mahoney has 12 tries for the season, proving that he has been a key figure in Parramatta's attacking success this year.
Meanwhile, Parramatta will have to contend with lock Haumole Olakauátu, who was explosive in last week's big win over the Dragons. It is not every day that a forward scores three tries in one game, yet Olakauátu did just that last weekend. On top of that, he busted seven tackles and finished with two line breaks in an incredible eighty-minute performance.
The favourite: Despite Manly's recent success as underdogs, Parramatta are still backed to take this one. Although, I do not think the Sea Eagles will mind all too much.
My tip: Belief is a strong thing and both sides will be full of it on Sunday afternoon. Yet, in the end, Parramatta have shown enough consistency over the whole season to suggest that they will get the job done in a thriller. Eels by 4.