Parramatta has nearly wrapped up Manly’s season with an emphatic 36-20 win over a sold-out Brookvale Oval on Friday night.
The win featured a try from the season contender and moved the Eels above the Broncos to fifth on the ladder with four rounds to go.
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The Eels exploded with winger Maika Sivo scoring two tries in the first eight minutes to stun a pumping home crowd.
Sivo passed untouched for both attempts and with Mitchell Moses on the sidelines, the kicking duties fell to Clint Gutherson who missed the conversions.
But Manly then scored 14 unanswered runs as the teams went into halftime 14-14.
The Sea Eagles hit back at play when Daly Cherry-Evans put in a kick for Toluatau Koula to soar above the pack and score in the 20th minute.
Manly then shot a penalty to equalize, before Jason Saab sensationally finished in the corner and converted Reuben Garrick to make it 14-8.
“What a great turnaround after all the pressure the Eels have put on them,” Greg Alexander told Fox League.
Parramatta center Tom Opacic finished a well-worked team effort in the 33rd minute to recapture the scores.
In the second half, Manly struck first as Christian Tuipulotu forced his way into the corner.
Garrick shot a penalty for the sticks in the 54th minute to make it 20-14 before Eels winger Waqa Blake scored an incredible try.
Blake used every inch available to him to produce one of the best finishes of the season over the top of Morgan Harper.
“That’s an incredible effort. He got the ball way over his head, he was crushed by Morgan Harper, but he still gets the ball in that corner,” said Alexander.
“He’s a blade of grass from touch to goal,” Voss said.
Eels skipper Clint Gutherson then scored from afar after Shaun Lane broke the line and unloaded to his skipper who ran away.
“Shaun Lane has had 10 assists this year, it’s been a very successful year for him on the left,” said Alexander.
Eel center Will Penisini scored after plunging on a clever eraser from Jakob Arthur before Dylan Brown sealed the result in the 71st minute.
Here are three of the biggest talking points from the game.
JACOB ARTHUR STOPS THE CRITICS
The coach’s son has been criticized this season, but with the game at stake against Manly, Jakob Arthur delivered.
Athur was booed by his own fans two weeks ago, reacting in an emphatic manner while filling in for the injured Mitch Moses.
The 19-year-old made two crucial attempts in the second half, including a try of the season, scored by Waqa Blake.
“The pass he gave Waqa Blake to score in the corner, to have the guts and confidence to throw that… you have to come up with a perfect pass,” Corey Parker told Fox League.
“Doing that at that crucial moment in the game was a great confidence-builder for him. If there was any doubt about Jakob Arthur, he put it to bed.”
Mick Ennis, who has spent time coaching with the Eels, echoed the sentiment and challenged all critics of Athur to take a look at the work he is putting into it.
“I honestly say to everyone, if you have any questions about Jakob Arthur, go to Kellyville all week and watch Parramatta train,” Ennis said.
“Anyone can go there and I guarantee he and Will Penesini have to be dragged off the field every day they train. They are always on their game.
“Jake is a champion and I am very proud of him tonight.”
GUTHO AND BROWN STAND TALL
Clint Gutherson and Dylan Brown stepped out with confidence with the squad’s lead playmaker, Mitchell Moses, who was sidelined with a hand injury.
Gutherson ran 179 yards, had three try assists, two linebreaks, three tackle busts and scored a try, while Brown also prevented and led the team through the park.
“He stepped on without Mitch there, he stepped on as the senior playmaker,” said coach Brad Arthur.
Greg Alexander was equally impressed, while fellow Fox League commentator Andrew Voss supported his form to make it to the World Cup at the end of the year.
“That’s his eighth try of the season, the improvement in Dylan Brown between 2021 and 2022 is dramatic,” said Alexander.
“If you look at what he’s done, the try-assists, the linebreaks, he’s more than tripled his try-assis this year. He is a much better player this year.
“I just attributed it to youth and experience. He got off to a flying start this year. There was a lot of talk about where he was. We really hadn’t seen much of it until this year.”
Voss believes New Zealand could be challenging with Brown piloting the ship.
“I tell you what makes me excited about that, it’s a World Cup year, this guy in the No. 6 for New Zealand, who plays like this, it could be good times for the Kiwis,” he said.
MANLY’S SEASON IS HANGING BY A THREAD
The Sea Eagles are no longer in control of their own destiny and must win their remaining four games to stand a chance of making it to the finals.
Manly is now four points and a significant points difference outside the top eight, with games remaining against the Titans, Sharks, Raiders and Bulldogs.
“We need to win four out of four to give ourselves a chance,” said coach Des Hasler when asked what the loss meant for his team’s season.
“I haven’t done the math, but less isn’t going to work. We have the players to do it and we just need to find a way.
“We were in a position to win tonight and we didn’t and we can’t afford that.”
The Sea Eagles have now lost three in a row amid controversy over the pride jersey that rocked the club last week.
“Yeah, it’s been a tough (week) but you have to get out there and come up with the big game,” Hasler said.
“I thought a few times that we let ourselves down defensively, so taxing or not, we’re not going to make excuses.”
Fox League pundits Corey Parker and Mick Ennis said the prospects for the Sea Eagles final are “in trouble”.
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