The Dyldam Parramatta Eels have romped home 42-24 over the Cronulla Sharks in the second annual Johnny Mannah Cup at Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta.
The Sharks had the worst possible start to the match with a knock-on from the kick off, and the Blue and Gold seized the opportunity to attack the left-hand side, resulting in Semi Radradra’s 11th try of the 2014 NRL season.
Against the run of play, it was Sosaia Feki who crossed for the Sharks first try of the match, and Michael Gordon converted to give Cronulla a 6-4 lead in the opening ten minutes.
Cronulla were granted an attacking set of six on the Eels line and with a touch of luck, the final-tackle grubber kick found the feet of Wade Graham and rebounded for him to ground the ball over the tryline.
It was co-captain Jarryd Hayne who answere back: when the Eels made a break down the left-hand side, Hayne collected the ball and ran circles around the Shark’s scrambling defence to cross the line. Sandow’s conversion was on target to bring the margin to just two points, trailing 12-10.
In the 25th minute the Blue and Gold started to gather some momentum off the back of a Chris Sandow bomb that forced a knock on from Sharks fullback Michael Gordon.
Will Hopoate was set to score his first try of the match with a scooping run from hooker, though the on-field referee’s called a ‘no-try’ and there wasn’t sufficient evidence to overturn the ‘held-up’ decision.
On the same set of six, Sandow chipped the ball to himself and with a lucky bounce Gordon missed the ball, allowing Sandow to re-gather and cross himself. With the conversion attempt successful, Parramatta held a 16-12 lead.
Sandow’s accuracy with the boot forced an attacking set of six on the Sharks line off the back off a 40/20, and Ken Sio capitalised to score on the right touchline after diving to beat his opposite number.
The Eels finished off the first-half strongly as Will Hopoate came close again, but was bundled into touch before the half-time siren.
Hopoate was instrumental in the second half of the match – scoring a try, denying Wade Graham when he was certain to score and setting up Ken Sio’s second try of the match.
Paul Gallen tried to inspire his team, popping up a ball to Isaac De Gois in the midst of being tackled, bringing the scoreline to 28-18.
Willie Tonga’s notorious intercept skills were on show once again, running 90 metres to increase the Eels lead to 34-18 following Sandow’s successful conversion.
A soft defensive blunder made way for Michael Gordon to score and convert his own try, and narrowed the margin to 34-24 with ten minutes remaining.
A Sandow line-break followed up by a cross-field kick was taken in the air by Hopoate and knocked-back to Ken Sio for his double. Sandow missed the conversion as the Eels held a 38-24 lead.
Hayne topped off his best performance of the season with another try, scooping up a loose ball on his own 30 metre line and running the length of the field. Parramatta increased the lead to 42-24 with Sandow’s conversion.
In the final minute of the match, Hayne was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul, but it was too little too late for the Sharks as Parramatta ran out 42-24 winners.
The win was capped off by retaining the Johnny Mannah Cup, a feeling co-captain Tim Mannah says is very humbling.
“As a family we are very grateful that both clubs put on such a great night for us… personally I’m just happy that we got the two points and got our season back on track.”
The Eels will look to notch up back-to-back home wins when they host the Dragons on Saturday afternoon at Pirtek Stadium.
Dyldam Parramatta Eels - 42 (Sio 2, Hayne 2, Radradra, Sandow, Hopoate, Tonga; Sandow 5/8 goals)
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks - 24 (Feki, Graham, De Gois, Gordon tries; Gordon 4/4 goals)