By Michael Mapstone
A handful of key plays by halfback Chris Sandow proved the difference for Wentworthville as they scored a last-minute victory over a determined Manly outfit.
The Sea Eagles took advantage of an early penalty to go straight on the attack and open their account after just two minutes, Clinton Gutherson putting in a deft grubber for winger Jayden Horo to score in the right hand corner. Gutherson missed the sideline conversion, but his side was up 4-0.
It wasn’t until the 11th minute that Wentworthville worked into a similar attacking position and it was Sandow who threw a long floating ball for Ken Sio to cross in the corner. Sandow’s sideline conversion gave Wentworthville a 6-4 lead.
Three minutes later it was some silky hands from Sandow that gave Joseph Ualesi a clear path to the line from close range, Sandow again converting from wide out.
At the 18 minute mark Sandow did it himself, breaking through the defence from close range to score under the posts. Sio converted and the Magpies led 18-4.
Unlike many times in recent seasons, the Sea Eagles kept their heads up. And they were given a shot of confidence five minutes later when Jayden Hodges, at dummy half close to the line, shaped to pass, stepped over and brought the ball around under the posts to give Gutherson the easiest of conversions.
Six minutes later Tom Symonds, in his return match from injury, threw the last pass in a Manly attacking raid for Jayden Horo to score his second. Gutherson converted from out wide and the margin was back to two points, as it would remain at half-time.
A defensive highlight of the match was a front-on, trying saving tackle by Manly fullback Matt Ikuvalu on his opposite number Henry Raiwalui at the 58 minute mark. But it was to no avail, with Ben Jones diving over from close range two plays later. Sio’s conversion gave Wentworthville a 24-16 lead and, it appeared, the upper hand.
But Manly hit back three minutes later when James Mirceskie crashed over beside the post and Gutherson converted.
Then, with 13 minutes left, a lost ball by Wentworthville proved costly as it was scooped up by Manly. From broken play Jesse Sene-Lafao came steaming on to a pass and tore through the Parramatta line, running 25 metres with barely a hand laid on him. Gutherson’s conversion gave Manly the lead, 28-24.
But Wentworthville would snatch the match at the death. On the attack with just 70 seconds remaining, Sandow took the ball first off the ruck on the fifth tackle and switched it back inside for Ben Jones to barge over from 10 metres out. Sandow converted after the siren for a 30-28 Magpies victory.
Wentworthville will look to continue their undefeated season when they take on the Panthers at Ringrose Oval on Sunday; whilst the Sea Eagles will have a week to rest up with the bye.
Wentworthville Magpies 30 (B Jones 2, K Sio, C Sandow, J Ualesi tries; C Sandow 3, K Sio 2 goals) def. Manly Sea Eagles 28 (J Horo 2, J Mirceskie, J Hodges, J Sene Lefao tries; C Gutherson 4 goals) at Brookvale Oval.