Manly Sea Eagles piled on 22 unanswered points to overcome a 16-12 halftime deficit and convincingly defeat the Wentworthville Magpies 34-20 – ultimately ending their hopes of playing Finals football.
The Sea Eagles forward pack were extremely dominant in the second half as they set the platform for the halves and backs to accumulate a late flourish of points.
Magpies winger James Tuitahi and Sea Eagles veteran David Williams had an ongoing head-to-head battle throughout the 80 minutes – and they certainly put on an astonishing show.
The win means the Sea Eagles now sit in ninth position, and are only behind the eighth-placed Illawarra Cutters on points differential.
The Magpies completely dominated the opening quarter of the game, winning the early field-position battle and starving the Sea Eagles of any possession.
Ryan Matterson combined with Henry Raiwalui to create numbers on the left side before Raiwalui unloaded for Nathan Davis to open the scoring for the Magpies.
Beau Henry threw a wonderful cutout pass for Tuitahi to bolt down the right sideline off the kickoff set, before he pounced on a loose grubber in the in-goal area just a few tackles later to extend their lead to 10-0.
Williams opened the Sea Eagles account with a dubious try in the left corner, with the Magpies players convinced Tuitahi tackled him into touch before the ball was planted.
A runaway try to Delroy Berryman decreased the deficit to 10-8 as Manaia Rudolph failed to add the extras for the second time.
The Sea Eagles ran the ball on the fifth tackle while on the attack, and Reardon looked to have been wrapped up by the Magpies defence. Tony Satini never gave up on the play though and very cleverly stripped the ball from his own teammate to pass to Jayden Hodges to score for their first lead.
Ben Crooks immediately reclaimed the 16-12 lead for the Magpies after he fended off several Sea Eagles players and strolled through some uninspiring defence.
In an incident considered odd even for rugby league, referee Ryan Jackson injured his ankle after a collision on the last play of the half, which ruled him out of officiating the second half.
The Magpies had their chances throughout the second half but lack of execution and poor ball security let them down.
Leading 16-12 at halftime, Henry put in a perfect kick for Tuitahi just three minutes into the second half, but he let a certain chance slip away as he could not handle the kick.
Brenton Lawrence capitalised on this error moments later when he made a strong run down the left edge and passed for Williams to score his second try.
At this point, Manly were in full control and had all the momentum for the remainder of the match.
Williams was in the thick of the action moments later when he darted down the left sideline and passed to Jack Littlejohn in support who crossed untouched for a 22-16 lead.
Reardon, Rudolph and Halauafu Lavaka added late tries in the victory that keeps the Sea Eagles in Finals contention.
Manly Sea Eagles 34 (D Williams 2, D Berryman, J Hodges, J Littlejohn, D Reardon, M Rudolph tries; D Kelly 3 goals) bt Wentworthville Magpies 20 (N Davis, J Tuatahi, B Crooks, H Lavaka tries; B Henry 2 goals) at Ringrose Park.