Mounties have narrowly secured victory over the Sea Eagles with their most dominant first half of the season – but the Sea Eagles showed some incredible second half fight to eventually match their six tries. The absence of Blake Austin in the Raiders’ NRL ranks forced Sam Williams out of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW side, with Maurice Kennedy a valuable replacement, but with two game-ending injuries Mounties struggled to compete late in the game.
A heavy collision in the first minute of the contest had Mounties’ Rhys Kennedy and Manly’s Luke Burgess nursing injuries; while Burgess would play on through some obvious pain, Kennedy left the field and wasn’t to return. It mattered little for the trio of brothers, however – Jarrad and Maurice posted 16 points between them and helped secure the victory.
Mounties were all over the Sea Eagles early in the game, making far more metres than their counterparts which has become standard for the men from Mount Pritchard. An unexpected short ball from hooker Adam Clydesdale sent a flying Mitch Barnett over in the seventh minute, with Maurice Kennedy adding the extras in the absence of Williams.
The Manly side were only afforded two opportunities with the football inside the first nine minutes, but soon found a repeat set off a perfectly-weighted Feleti Mateo grubber. Regardless, the Mounties defence held strong and through some outstanding work of Brenko Lee and Kato Ottio were soon back on the Sea Eagles’ line. Ottio was pulled down one metre short and the home side spread it right – before Manly winger James Tuitahi came up with perhaps the try saver of the year on Zac Santo. Mounties made no mistake just two tackles later through another second-rower, Jarrad Kennedy bagging a try. Brother Maurice converted from the sideline for a 12-nil lead after 15 minutes.
Ottio kept coming at the Sea Eagles’ left-side defence, eventually scoring through an incredible acrobatic effort in the corner. Maurice Kennedy maintained his perfect record with the boot, for an 18-nil advantage.
Even with a freak offload from Manly second-rower Dylan Kelly, the visitors were pulled up just short and still couldn’t get on the scoreboard. The ill-disciplined Mounties were letting themselves down through penalties, however, and missed the opportunity to post more points and starve the Sea Eagles of possession.
It took another 12 minutes for the next points to come, with a fantastic offload from Sam Duggan allowing Mounties prop Clay Priest to score next to the posts. With a simple conversion it was 24-nil to the home side after 31 minutes.
Mounties just kept coming and despite carrying a left shoulder injury, it would be Brenko Lee to score next in the shadows of half-time; a neat grubber appeared to be aimed at Kato Ottio, but he chased it through himself to get on the scoresheet himself. Another perfect conversion had the home side in total control at the break, leading the Sea Eagles 30 points to nil.
Mounties picked up where they left off early in the second half, as a kick from Manly five-eighth Pita Godinet was let bounce and scooped up by Maurice Kennedy. Combining with Ottio, they ran 80 metres to eventually set up Jarrad Kennedy for his second. It was beginning to be a thrashing as Maurice Kennedy extended the lead to 36.
In worrying scenes, Lachlan Croker soon went down with what appeared to be a neck injury, meaning his side was reduced to 15 men for the remainder of the game. Duggan would come in to partner Maurice Kennedy in the halves until full-time.
Ottio was denied due to a forward pass soon after, before the Sea Eagles finally got on the board in the 56th minute. Dummy-half Hugh Pratt earned a deserved try assist, punching the ball through the Mounties defence with a grubber which was pounced on by Brayden Wiliame. Pratt added the extras for a 36-6 scoreline.
Just one minute later, a Mounties error afforded the Sea Eagles another opportunity and once again Wiliame made the most of it; a nice short ball from Dylan Kelly set up the speedster for his sixth try in just two games. The conversion was missed, but the visitors almost added more points from the restart as a Tuitahi break came close to providing Wiliame with his hat-trick.
Suddenly, the Sea Eagles were looking full of life and a forced line dropout earned them a mountain of possession. A strong run and offload from Fabian Goodall set up Peter Schuster for their third four-pointer, reducing the deficit to 20 when that was converted. Another break from Kelly started off a brilliant team try, finished by Tuitahi to make it four tries in just 11 minutes.
Mounties needed to step up to stem the flow of points and through a monstrous hit from Priest and Jacob Mayer on Manly’s Jordan Sims, they went some way to stamping their authority back on the game.
In the 76th minute, a Pita Godinet dummy through the Mounties defence off completely and he darted over from dummy-half. When Pratt added the extras it was only a 10-point gap, leaving the door just ajar for a miracle comeback.
Then, with less than two minutes remaining, a Brayden Williame line-break opened up space for Tuitahi to bag a second. He ran in for what would be a converted try, leaving it 36-32, but an error soon after the restart would stop the Sea Eagles just short of finishing one of the greatest comebacks in Rugby League history.
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