Premiership favourites Melbourne Storm had a huge scare against the Parramatta Eels, while the Manly Sea Eagles went down to the Penrith Panthers in two pulsating NRL finals matches on Saturday.
A highly contentious try to the Panthers’ Tyrone Peachey helped Penrith to a gripping 22-10 win over Manly in Saturday’s sudden-death final, ending the Sea Eagles’ season.
Scores were locked at 10-10 with six minutes left at Allianz Stadium when the bunker failed to find that Peachey had knocked on the ball in the lead-up to his try.
Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans told Channel Nine after the match: “I thought I had a pretty good view of that and I’ll swear black and blue it touched his hand.
“It’s going to be hard to walk away and have it come down to that.”
Adding to the controversy, Manly had two tries judged good on the field, but which were subsequently reversed by the video official.
The Panthers closed out the game through a Bryce Cartwright try in the final minute to wrap up a hugely exciting finals match.
After they went to the break trailing 10-4, Manly twice thought they had drawn level early in the second half in front of a crowd of just 15,408.
The Sea Eagles were denied a crucial try when Dylan Walker was ruled to have been marginally offside, chasing a Blake Green grubber, before he put the ball down after the on-field call went up as a try.
They had another chance to level midway through the second half, but were again denied after Akuila Uate was ruled to have knocked on a Cherry-Evans’ kick.
They finally hit back when Lewis Brown stepped through Penrith’s defence to lock the scores at 10-10 with 18 minutes to play, but the Panthers had the final say.
The win means Penrith will face the Brisbane Broncos next week at Suncorp Stadium.
Melbourne Storm hang on in cliffhanger
Melbourne was expected to dispense with the Eels easily, but the visitors almost pulled off a huge upset of the in-form Storm who only managed to win 18-16 at Melbourne’s AAMI Stadium.
Melbourne will have a week off, while Parramatta will next weekend play the winner of Sunday’s elimination final between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Cronulla Sharks.
Craig Bellamy said the tight win could be a blessing given the games ahead.
“We hadn’t had a close game for a while so I wouldn’t say it’s the game we needed but … I think there will be a few learnings from that,” Bellamy said.
Melbourne started well with Addo-Carr touching down in the fourth minute, after centre Curtis Scott was able to get the better of his opposite Michael Jennings.
But the home side lost their way with the sin-binning of Cameron Munster in the 17th minute for a professional foul for tackling Kenny Edwards from an offside position.
The Eels scored two tries while Melbourne were a man down to set up their six-point halftime lead, 10-4.
But the Storm scored two tries within four minutes early in the second half to snatch back the lead and regain momentum.
The first try was an astonishing team effort, with the ball going through 13 pairs of hands on the final tackle.
One of the most amazing team tries you’ll see
What did we just watch!
— NRL (@NRL) September 9, 2017
Fullback Billy Slater then crossed for the Storm’s second in the 50th minute after speedster Josh Addo-Carr kicked a ball through into the in-goal.
Smith converted both, giving Melbourne a 16-10 lead, then kicked a penalty to go ahead 18-10, before the Eels hit back through winger Semi Radradra scored in the 66th minute to set up a thrilling finish.
Parramatta had two players – Manu Ma’u and Daniel Alvaro – both put on report which may affect their finals hopes.
– with AAP