Parramatta Eels climbed above opponents Manly Sea Eagles into fifth in the final NRL ladder as Maika Sivo scored a hat-trick in a feisty encounter on Friday.
Sivo’s third try with two minutes remaining saw the Eels leapfrog Manly on points difference with a 32-16 win, while it brought up the winger’s 20th score of the season.
The powerful Fijian had earlier matched and then surpassed Latrell Mitchell’s tally of 18 in 2019 as he crossed three times in the second half to settle an occasionally ill-tempered affair.
Parramatta made a flying start with tries from Michael Jennings and Clinton Gutherson in the first seven minutes to secure a 14-2 half-time lead.
The second period was initially more balanced, though, even after Martin Taupau was sin-binned for an ugly high tackle on Ray Stone, who had to be carried from the field.
A pair of Manase Fainu tries sandwiched Sivo’s first effort and the Sea Eagles appeared to be in the ascendancy when Kane Evans also saw yellow for a shoulder to Brad Parker’s head.
But Manly simply had no answer for Sivo, who powered through for his second and then ended an excellent team move to head into the finals in style.
SIVO! SIVO! SIVO!
— Parramatta Eels (@TheParraEels) September 6, 2019
In Friday’s late game, premiers Melbourne Storm eased past North Queensland Cowboys 24-16.
Sandor Earl and Nelson Asofa-Solomona crossed before the break, with Will Chambers following quickly after the restart to put the Storm in control, all after Murray Taulagi had put the visitors ahead.
Kyle Feldt briefly brought the Cowboys back into the contest, but Max King’s 72nd-minute try sealed victory despite a last-gasp Gavin Cooper response.