Parramatta Eels rally to keep finals hopes alive

STAYING ALIVE: Parramatta players celebrate Vai Toutai's try in the Eels' 22-12 come-from-behind victory over the Manly Sea Eagles.
STAYING ALIVE: Parramatta players celebrate Vai Toutai's try in the Eels' 22-12 come-from-behind victory over the Manly Sea Eagles.

Parramatta stunned competition frontrunners Manly to keep their finals hopes alive with a remarkable come-from-behind victory on Friday night. 

The Eels produced their best 40 minutes of football to overcome a 12-0 half-time deficit and claim a memorable 22-12 win that catapulted them into the top eight. 

Manly's loss has also left the race for the minor premiership wide open, giving South Sydney the opportunity to jump into top spot with a win against North Queensland on Saturday night. 

The Eels couldn't find a way through Manly's rock-solid defence in the first half, but in front of a healthy crowd of 17,706 at Pirtek Stadium, the Eels turned it around in the second half to rattle the Sea Eagles and send out a warning  to opposition teams just three weeks out from the finals. 

It was the second time this year controversial refereeing decisions have marred a contest between the Eels and Sea Eagles. Parramatta were left seething following their round-three loss at Brookvale Oval, and there was no shortage of drama this time around. 

Contentious refereeing decisions from officials both on the field and upstairs angered both teams on a night that will leave teams scratching their heads over the interpretation of some of the rules. 

But this night was all about Parramatta, who have now jumped the Warriors and Cowboys into equal sixth position with Melbourne. However, all three of those teams still have a game in hand this weekend. 

While Jarryd Hayne was again hard to contain, Chris Sandow produced one of his best performances in blue and gold to lead the Eels to their 12th win of the season. Hayne might have expressed his frustration over the refereeing of his team in the lead-up to the match, but it did little to deter the officials from blowing an early penalty against his side that led to a Jorge Taufua try. 

Manly's ability to withstand an Eels attack paved the way for winger Peta Hiku to move within one of Hayne and Semi Radradra on the top tryscorers list, finishing off a backline play to grab his 17th four-pointer of the season. 

An offside penalty against the Eels on the stroke of half-time gifted Manly two points and a 12-0 lead at the break. 

The second half didn't begin well for Manly after prop Jason King was put on report for a high shot on Tepai Moeroa that forced the back-rower from the field for a concussion test. 

It looked like the Eels had taken advantage of the penalty when Sandow stepped past Kieran Foran, only for the video referee to  rule no try because Sandow had received the ball on the inside of the decoy runner, David Gower. 

The fuming Eels didn't take long to hit back, with Isaac De Gois playing down a narrow blindside to allow Ken Edwards to crash over and reduce the deficit to just six points. 

Parramatta's next points came courtesy of a Manly kick, with Radradra leaping above the pack before beating three Manly defenders on a 95-metre dash to the tryline. 

The incredible momentum swing continued a few minutes later on the back of Sandow's sixth 40-20 of the season, with Will Hopoate scoring from the ensuing set to give Parramatta an 18-12 lead after 57 minutes. 

Manly couldn't control the ball and gave up any chance of a comeback, as Vai Toutai crossed out wide for Parramatta to seal the deal in the 74th minute.

Parramatta Eels 22 (K Edwards W Hopoate S Radradra V Toutai tries C Sandow 3 goals) Manly Sea Eagles 12 (P Hiku J Taufua tries J Lyon 2 goals) at Pirtek Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Alan Shortall. Crowd: 17,706

Sydney Morning Herald