After being knocked off their lofty perch yesterday, by a devastating Penrith Panthers, the Paramatta Eels were looking for a swift return to their table topping opposition as they took on the eighth placed Manly Sea Eagles.
Paramatta made just once change, Oregon Kaufusi on the bench in the place of Ray Stone, while the Manly side were unchanged from the side which put the Brisbane Broncos to the sword last time out.
Two sides, both showing good form in the opening Project Apollo round, set the scene for a classic encounter.
A Clinton Gutherson ball steal in the Eagles ten metre area gave the Eels an early set of six on the line but great scrambling defence closed down the danger, but with almost all of the ball in the opening five minutes, Paramatta dominated the opening stages.
On twelve the Eels forced back to back goal line dropouts and after being awarded a penalty on fifteen, directly in front of the sticks, Mitchell Moses slotted the ball over to open the scoring.
A high hit on Daniel Levi, on Manly’s first real foray into the Eels half, gifted Reuben Garrick a simple penalty to level the scores. The Sea Eagles in the game after twenty despite having to defend for the majority of it.
There were thirty minutes in the clock before the first four pointer arrived. Fast hands in a right to left move saw Maika Sivo break for the corner and offload under the tackle to Michael Jennings to dive over from two metres. Moses converted in off the far upright for a six-point lead.
Ten seconds from the end of the game and the Eels struck again, crushing the Manly spirit. Sivo was again the provider, passing to Dylan Brown for a walk in at the corner. Moses pushed his third kick of the night wide of the far upright, the Eels into the sheds with a 12-2 lead.
An early Manly mistake gifted the Eels a try in the opening minute of the second half as Kane Evans pushed under three tacklers to get the ball on the ground on the line. Moses added a simple conversion for 18-2, the game drifting away from the Sea Eagles thanks to two tries in a two-minute spell either side of half time.
On forty-four Manly scored their first four-pointer, after referee Cummins checked with the bunker. Fast hands saw the ball end up with Jorge Taufua who crossed on his knees and got the ball on the ground. Garrick was unable to convert from the touchline, the margin down to twelve points.
Manly got their second on fifty-two to set the Eels nerves running. Dylan Walker threw the dummy, jinked to the line, and held the ball up until he could crawl over the line to score under the tackle. Garrick converted this time for 12-18, and the game was back on.
Manly were re-invigorated, but Paramatta redoubled their efforts and took the game back to their opponents.
A Mitch Moses one-pointer on seventy-three, in off the upright, extended the lead to seven points and sealed the fourth straight win for the Eels.
Three minutes from time Taufua got his second of the night as he reached for the line to ground one-handed under pressure from three Eels tacklers to get his side back within three points. The winger took a pass from Bradley Parker and spun in the tackle before lunging from the line. Garrick was unable to convert from the touchline, the Sea Eagles needing another try to get the win.
The Sea Eagles scored in the closing seconds but referee Cummins, somewhat controversially, called the final pass from Day Cherry-Evans as forward. The clock ran out with Manly looking the most likely to pinch it, but the Eels held on to go back top of the table.
Paramatta Eels: Gutherson, Sivo, Jennings (T), Blake, Ferguson, Brown (T), Moses (DG, 3G), Campbell-Gillard, Mahoney, Paulo, Lane, Matterson, Niukore. Subs: Takairangi, Evans (T), Terepo, Kaufusi.
Manly Sea Eagles: Trbojevic T, Taufua (2T), Parker, Suli, Garrick (2G), Walker, Cherry-Evans, Fonua-Blake, Levi, Taupau, Thompson, Sironen, Trbojevic J. Subs: Croker, Waddell, Keppie, Paseka.
Referee: Ben Cummins.
Ground: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney.