The result ensures the Sea Eagles remain within touching distance of the top eight. For Parramatta, their late comeback keeps them top of the ladder ahead of the Storm on for and against, although they could be leapfrogged by the Panthers if they beat North Queensland on Sunday.
It has taken until the halfway point of a shortened campaign for Parramatta to submit their first flat performance. They have been up a long time, their only previous defeat coming at the hands of the premiers. But on one of their few trips away from Bankwest, they were on the end of an old-fashioned ambush.
“We knew exactly what we were walking into, we prepared for it, but we weren’t prepared to do anything about it when we got here,” Eels coach Brad Arthur said.
“Those three tries in 10 minutes at the start, the attitude wasn’t there from the start. The good teams keep themselves up all the time.”
This was a turnaround of form on many fronts. The Eels had won nine of their previous 11 encounters, while Manly were coming off three consecutive losses. Further, the Sea Eagles’ best and most expensive player, Daly Cherry-Evans, submitted an absolute stinker last week.
How quickly things can change.
Cherry-Evans was back to his normal self, kicking, scheming, even scoring. This was just what he needed to play himself back into form. Operating behind a dominant forward pack with possession in his favour, the Eels couldn’t hold him.
‘DCE’ scampered between two defenders without being touched for a solo special. At other times, the Maroons skipper was setting up others. His pinpoint grubber for Joel Thompson just before the half-time buzzer ensured Manly regained momentum just as it was threatening to slip away.
“I thought we played pretty strong in the first half,” Manly coach Des Hasler said. “We gave ourselves some nervous moments [in the second].”
The depth of both teams was tested. The Eels were without Mitchell Moses, Ryan Matterson and Blake Ferguson. They can now add Nathan Brown to the list after he suffered a corked hip. Their absence was cancelled out by Tom Trbojevic, Dylan Walker and Addin Fonua-Blake. The Silvertails suffered a further setback, a sternum injury to Moses Suli, although the big centre came back on when Reuben Garrick suffered a head knock.
Parramatta’s failure to spot Suli in defence was an opportunity lost.
There could even be a further casualty. Just before full-time, Maiko Sivo was ironed out by Brad Parker. Another mismatch with an unexpected result.
In what was their first win at home all season, a number of Eagles found reason to celebrate. Martin Taupau marked his 100th game for the club with the opening try.
Danny Levi would have found this particularly satisfying. When the Eels were considering back-up hooker options, Levi was offered to them. After completing their due diligence, they passed. He crossed against them for a crucial try.
With his team trailing, Parramatta coach Brad Arthur made a rare sojourn down to the sideline for the second stanza. He witnessed an improved performance and even a scrum win against the feed, but would have left disappointed.
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.