Parramatta Eels faced their toughest test so far, as they looked to continue their unbeaten run against the high-flying Manly Sea Eagles at BankWest Stadium.
After plenty of sets in a row deep in the Manly half, the Eels were looking cross for an early try, but Jorge Tuafua’s tackle on Blake Ferguson meant the winger stepped into touch before offloading inside to Waqa Blake for a certain score.
After a scoreless opening ten minutes, Parramatta forced two back-to-back goal-line drop-outs as they once again built up some pressure on the Sea Eagles defence.
Manly did enough to stop the Eels picking up a try, but they did concede a soft penalty at the ruck, which allowed Mitchell Moses to kick two points in the 15th minute for an early lead.
The Eels couldn’t build any more points off the back of the penalty and instead gave the Sea Eagles the chance to level the scores, after a high tackle on Danny Levi just in front of the posts.
Reuben Garrick duly converted and made the score 2-2 after 20 minutes.
Manly seemed to switch a flick in the 15th minute, and all of a sudden their play seemed faster and the Eels were struggling to maintain them.
Unfortunately, two poor kicks from Tom Trbojevic let Parramatta off the hook.
The Eels bounced straight back and showed the Sea Eagles just how to finish off a set of six.
Dylan Brown to the ball to the line, which allowed Clint Gutherson to flick the ball onto Maika Sivo.
The winger, who usually runs straight over people, was stopped in his tracks by Tom Trbojevic, but Sivo was able to offload out of the tackle with one hand to Michael Jennings, who dotted down after a slight juggle.
Moses converted for a six-point lead with eight minutes to go until the half.
After a brain explosion from Tom Trbojevic on tackle one, where his offload drifted forwards.
It allowed the Eels to attack the Manly line in the final minute, and after a Manly knock-on, an attacking scrum brought about try number two for the home-side.
Once again, the ball was spread out wide to Maika Sivo who managed to half-break out the tackle and offloaded to Dylan Brown outside him who walked over for the four-pointer.
HALF-TIME: Parramatta Eels 12-2 Manly Sea Eagles
It didn’t take too long for the Eels to extend their lead, after an error from the Sea Eagles which allowed Peni Terepo to run to within metres of the try line, and a short pass to an onrushing Kane Evans in the next tackle was enough to stretch the lead.
The Eels were the next to make a simple error, and it gave the Sea Eagles the chance to get back into the game.
The ball was spread wide to Jorge Taufua, who used his strength to get through the tackle of Clint Gutherson, twisted on the floor and grounded the ball. This was confirmed a grounding by The Bunker after it looked as though Taufua bounced the ball.
Manly managed to cross the line again just a few minutes later. Martin Taupau offloaded to Daly Cherry-Evans which pushed the visitors up the middle of the field which created the space for Dylan Walker to step inside and hold off Marata Niukore and dot down.
The visitors were in the ascendency heading into the final quarter, and after a good kick chase, they forced a knock-on from Blake Ferguson in the tackle just 10-metres from his own line.
Unfortunately, Des Hasler’s side couldn’t keep hold of the ball and let Parramatta off the hook.
It didn’t take long for the Eels to get into good field position again though after a huge break from Jennings put the home side deep inside the Sea Eagles half.
Reed Mahoney noticed that Adam Fonua-Blake was the sweeper and took advantage of the situation kicked behind the line for Oregon Kaufusi, but the centre couldn’t quite ground the ball as he knocked on.
With 15 minutes remaining, the Eels still led by six, and both sides were putting their bodies on the line in order to pick up the two points.
After yet another line break from Blake Ferguson and some good work from Gutherson, the Eels won a set restart forty metres out from the Manly line.
Two tackle later, Moses opted to try for a one-pointer and was successful after the ball ricocheted off the left upright for a seven-point lead with six minutes to go.
With time against them, Manly were still searching for a way back into the game, and it looked as though they’d cut the lead down to one score.
After spreading the ball from right to left, it left the Sea Eagles just a few metres out from the Eels line.
Instead of kicking on the last, Jake Trbojevic passed the ball to the blindside to Brad Parker, who offloaded out the tackle to Jorde Taufua, who, in turn, managed to dive over in the corner and ground the ball despite the attention of three Parramatta players.
Garrick missed the conversion, which left Manly three points behind heading into the final two minutes.
The Sea Eagles worked their way back inside the Eels half and shifted the ball right through Daly Cherry-Evans to Reuben Garrick.
The winger then made up for his missed conversion by busting through two tackles and grounding the ball in the corner for the victory.
However, the play was brought back by Ben Cummins who, with help from his linesman, deemed the pass from Tom Trbojevic to Garrick have drifted forward and rule out the score.
It was a controversial call as the pass seemed to be flat in a controversial ending which denied Manly a wonderful comeback win, and Parramatta continued their unbeaten run, which was also thoroughly deserved.
FULL-TIME: Parramatta Eels 19-16 Manly Sea Eagles
Gutherson, Sivo, Jennings, Blake, Ferguson, Brown, Moses, Campbell-Gillard, Mahoney, Paulo, Lane, Matterson, Niukore
Interchanges: Takairangi, Evans, Terepo, Kaufusi
Tries: Jennings, Brown, Evans
Goals: Moses (3/4)
Manly Sea Eagles
T. Trbojevic, Taufua, Parker, Suli, Garrick, Walker, Cherry-Evans, Fonua-Blake, Levi, Taupau, Thompson, Sironen, J. Trbojevic
Interchanges: Croker, Waddell, Keppie, Paseka
Tries: Taufua (2), Walker
Goals: Garrick (2/4)
Referee: B. Cummins
Touch Judges: P. Gough, L. Kennedy
Video Referee: B. Lowe