Monday 11 December 2017 / 01:19 PM

NRL FRIDAY: SEA EAGLES AND EELS LAY DOWN FINALS CREDENTIALS

SEA EAGLES 46 d. RABBITOHS 8 @ Allianz Stadium

Souths arguably hit their lowest ebb of the Michael Maguire era, while Manly shape as a genuine finals contender after a blistering Friday evening display – highlighted by a reborn Akuila Uate’s four-try haul.

THE MATCH: Front-rower Brenton Lawrence started the Sea Eagles blitzkrieg with a barnstorming 12th-minute try, before Curtis Sironen latched onto a Daly Cherry-Evans grubber for 12-2 lead a quarter of the way through the match.

Jorge Taufua was the next to cross from a long-range movement, while Dylan Walker laid on back-to-back tries for Uate, and Jake Trbojevic capitalised on some brilliance from younger brother Tom to create a stunning 30-2 scoreline.

The Rabbitohs scored first after the break – a contentious four-pointer to Hymel Hunt – but Manly soon got back to work and Walker sent Uate in for another two tries in quick succession to put the result beyond doubt at 40-8 with 10 minutes left.

The Sea Eagles capped one of their most dominant performances in years when Blake Green put Tom Trbojevic through a hole on halfway, before backing up to score his side’s ninth try of the night.

Perhaps the only negative for Manly was their goalkicking, with Walker and Cherry-Evans landing just three of their seven attempts, before bench utility Jackson Hastings kicked two-from-two.

As for the Rabbitohs, slack defence and a general lack of urgency headlined their myriad problems.

THE MAN: Tom Trbojevic (239 metres, 2 line-breaks, 2 try assists), Jake Trbojevic (184 metres, 27 tackles), Aku Uate (132 metres, 2 line-breaks, 4 tries) and Martin Taupau (229 metres, 19 tackles) were all outstanding, but ex-Rabbitoh Dylan Walker’s display was out of this world. He ran for 149 metres and made two line-breaks, but it was four mind-blowing try assists for Uate that showcased Walker’s rare talent. Walker went backwards in 2016 but he’s currently in career-best form – and making a compelling case for Origin selection.

THE MOMENT: Jake Trbojevic’s try summed up Manly’s brilliance and Souths’ lethargy. Desperately needing to hold on in the dying minutes of the first half at 22 points down, the Rabbitohs allowed Tom Trbojevic to saunter out of dummy-half on the last tackle, before the fullback flicked up an incredible pass off the deck for his brother to score. The game was over as a contest from that point.

Sea Eagles 46 (Akuila Uate 4, Brenton Lawrence, Curtis Sironen, Jorge Taufua, Jake Trbojevic, Blake Green tries; Dylan Walker 3, Jackson Hastings 2 goals) d. Rabbitohs 8 (Hymel Hunt try; Adam Reynolds 2 goals)

EELS 26 d. COWBOYS 6 @ 1300SMILES Stadium

Johnathan Thurston’s abandoned comeback provided Parramatta with a significant advantage in Townsville, and the blue-and-golds took it with both hands to emphatically shut out the home side.

THE MATCH: Continuing the momentum garnered from two straight wins, the Eels led 14-0 at the break thanks to two tries and three goals from Clint Gutherson, backing up breaks from Corey Norman and Michael Jennings down the Cowboys’ brittle right edge.

Former Penrith utility Will Smith, a late call-up at five-eighth, scored a try on club debut after another Jennings bust, giving the Eels a commanding 20-0 lead after 50 minutes.

Antonio Winterstein raised hopes of a late fight-back with the Cowboys’ first try – a sharply-taken chance from a John Asiata kick in the 66th minute – but despite the historic sin-binning of Eels back-rower Kenny Edwards for slapping Gavin Cooper, the hosts couldn’t make any further impression on the scoreboard.

Veteran skipper Tim Mannah iced a rare win in Townsville for Parramatta when he barged over with six minutes left.

THE MAN: It’s been said many times, but it’s so accurate: Clint Gutherson is just a natural footballer. His energy and enthusiasm is Josh Reynolds-like, and his support play earned him two tries as part of an 18-point haul on Friday night. But he’s also consistent and relatively mistake free – tremendous qualities given Gutherson has had to bounce between five-eighth and fullback. With Mitchell Moses and Bevan French on deck in 2018, Gutherson will surely have to find a place at wing or centre, but there’s little question he’ll provide excellent value there, too.

THE MOMENT: Kenny Edwards’ twin moments of madness unfortunately overshadowed the Eels’ superb win to a certain extent. After goading Cooper following a crucial error, Edwards inexplicably ignored the NRL’s recent edict a gave the Queensland Origin forward an open-hander – now an instant sin-bin. Not content with creating unwanted history, Edwards went full Des Hasler back in the dressing rooms and wildly swung a fold-up chair at some lockers. Bravo, moron.

Eels 26 (Clint Gutherson 2, Will Smith, Tim Mannah tries; Gutherson 5 goals) d. Cowboys 6 (Antonio Winterstein try; Kyle Feldt goal)

[YouTube – Rugby League/Union]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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