Impressive Eels beat brave Sea Eagles
The Parramatta Eels have recorded their sixth straight Telstra Premiership win over Manly with a tough 20-12 victory over a new-look Sea Eagles at Lottoland on Sunday afternoon.
The closeness of the final margin was a testament to the resilient defence of the Sea Eagles who had just 40 per cent possession for the entire match and were forced into a whopping seven second-half goal line drop-outs.
The physicality in the forward pack was a highlight, with the battle between Kiwi enforcers Marty Taupau and Suaia Matagi particularly enthralling and producing some massive collisions.
Parramatta's new halves combination of Corey Norman and Clint Gutherson got off to a fine start, linking up on both sides of the field and crossing the line for a try apiece.
Manly debutant Brian Kelly opened the scoring with an impressive try in just the seventh minute - showing good strength and footwork to beat several defenders – after his forwards won the early battle against the Eels. But that was as good as it got for the home side.
Eels halfback Norman dominated proceedings from there. He grubbered through for a fine solo try to square the ledger in the 11th minute then launched a stunning 40/20 kick followed by a sublime face-ball to set up a Bevan French (via an outstanding Manu Ma'u offload) in the 26th minute.
Five-eighth Gutherson nailed three first-half goals from as many attempts, including a penalty goal, to hand the Eels an eight-point advantage at the break.
It could have been worse for Manly, who trailed the possession count 59 to 41 per cent and the completion rate by 84 to 68 per cent at half time, with a try to Josh Hoffman called back due French's neat cut-out pass being judged to have floated forward.
Things didn't improve much for the Sea Eagles after the break with Parramatta continuing to dominate possession and force drop out after drop out.
Gutherson extended the scoring with a powerful show-and-go at the line, forcing his way through Manly's left-side defence in the 49th minute.
The Eels went the length of the field off the next set with the aid of a fortuitous penalty, before Aku Uate made an error from their kick to hand over a repeat set.
From there the Eels – and specifically the precision boot of Norman – forced four consecutive goal line drop outs against Manly but the home team produced an inspiring passage of defence against a threatening opponent to keep their goal line intact through a period where they weren't tackled with the ball for 13 minutes.
The Eels were frustrated by their inability to convert possession and field position into points and eventually opted for two points from a penalty in front to take their lead from 12 to 14 in the 65th minute.
Still more drop outs followed for a rapidly tiring Manly before an inspirational run from Tom Trbojevic – scooping up yet another Norman stab-kick on the fly – set them on the attack with a 50-metre line break.
With just a few plays at the Eels line, new five-eighth Blake Green was able to score in his club debut when he shrugged through some fairly flimsy defence next to the posts but at 20-12 with just three minutes to play it was too little too late for the home side.
Parramatta Eels 20 (Corey Norman, Bevan French, Clint Gutherson tries; Gutherson 4 goals) defeated Manly Sea Eagles 12 (Brian Kelly, Blake Green tries; Dylan Walker 2 goals) at Lottoland. Half time: Eels 14-6. Crowd 11,318.