SEA EAGLES 30 d. TITANS 10 @ Cbus Super Stadium
Manly shrugged off injury woes to carve out an impressive victory on the Gold Coast, with the Titans plummeting back to earth after last week’s momentous defeat of Melbourne.
THE MATCH: Akuila Uate opened the scoring with a blistering 50-metre try after Daly Cherry-Evans released him into space in the 12th minute, but Blake Green’s wayward pass in the Sea Eagles’ next possession allowed Ashley Taylor to reply for the home side.
Another beautiful DCE ball saw Uate steam down the right-hand touchline again before Dylan Walker backed up to score, while in-form hooker Apisai Koroisau’s dummy-half dart gave the visitors an imposing 18-6 halftime lead.
Curtis Sironen set Jake Trbojevice up to land a crucial blow five minutes into the second half, but Anthony Don kept the Titans alive with a brilliant put-down of a Taylor grubber in the 56th minute.
Already without Tom Trbojevic, Manly lost Nate Myles and Jorge Taufua to injury during the second half, while Walker played on bravely with a leg cork. But despite a wealth of opportunities, the Titans could not make any further inroads to the deficit.
Walker sealed the result by charging onto a Cherry-Evans pass and dotting down for his second with seven minutes remaining.
THE MAN: Jake Trbojevic was an 80-minute machine again for the Sea Eagles, making a game-high 180 metres from 16 runs, reeling off 42 tackles (second only to Koroisau) and scoring a vital try. Should be enough to book a Blues debut.
ORIGIN WATCH: While Trbojevic now seems assured of NSW selection, Cherry-Evans and Walker kept their names in the frame with superb performances. Uate is also a smoky for a Blues wing spot at some stage of the series, but Myles – who has been cleared of serious injury – will be relying on the Maroons’ famed loyalty to be retained after playing just 21 minutes off the bench.
On the Titans’ side of the fence, Jarryd Hayne was exposed badly in defence which may prompt the Blues to name him on the wing rather than at left centre. Anthony Don again suggested he would let no one down if picked on the NSW flank, but Nathan Peats would have preferred a stronger game in his bid to clinch the No.9 jumper. Blues hopeful Ryan James and Maroons tyro Jarrod Wallace kept their hopes afloat with hard-working performances up front.
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THE MOMENT: Cherry-Evans’ cut-out speculator to put Uate away again in the lead-up to Walker’s first try really seemed to knock the Titans’ confidence. It was DCE at his instinctive best, and the Sea Eagles’ in-form outside-backs are capitalising on their skipper’s rare vision.
RAIDERS 22 d. EELS 16 @ ANZ Stadium
The Raiders came from behind to score an important away win as midseason recruit Mitchell Moses endured a mixed Eels debut.
THE MATCH: Teenage winger Nick Cotric continues to firm in the Rookie of the Year market, producing an incredible finish to put Canberra on the board in just the fourth minute. The visitors pushed out to 10-0 with quarter of the match gone after Joey Leilua barged over from close range.
Parramatta responded impressively to level the scores by halftime – Manu Ma’u coming up with a remarkable kick-and-chase effort, before some brilliant lead-up play by Semi Radradra saw Michael Jennings go over – with two tries in the last seven minutes of the opening stanza.
The Eels hit the front for the first time in the 47th minute as everywhere-man Clint Gutherson sent Siosaia Vave over with a slick pass, but Blake Austin’s try nine minutes later locked up the scoreboard again.
After a lengthy impasse, a beautifully-executed sweep play gave Raiders game-breaker Jordan Rapana enough space to get past opposing winger Radradra and plant the ball in the corner with inches to spare in the 73rd minute, and the Eels’ valiant attempt to find a late leveller came up just short.
Catapulted into the Eels’ line-up for injured linchpin Corey Norman, Mitchell Moses came up with more good than bad in his first outing for the club. He was busy, but produced a number of loose passes and was terrorised in defence by Josh Papalii.
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THE MAN: Canberra fullback Jack Wighton came up with some big plays at the back under the high ball, ran for 178 metres on 20 carries and produced two try-assists – including the money ball for Rapana’s match-winner.
ORIGIN WATCH: Junior Paulo outshone teammate and fellow NSW hopeful Shannon Boyd with a 200-metre performance, while Jarrod Croker and Joey Leilua were good without being outstanding in their late bid for a Blues debut. Certain Queensland selection Josh Papalii had a blinder. Michael Jennings’ claims to a 19th Origin appearance are in doubt after he left the field with a leg injury during the second half. No other Eels players were considered genuine contenders for Game 1.
THE MOMENT: Rapana’s rare finishing ability ultimately got the Raiders’ over the line – and touch judge Belinda Sleeman back herself to make the call, with the Bunker not required to confirm the winning try.
— Andrew Bryan (@AndrewBryan321) May 20, 2017
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