By Blake Edwards
The Illawarra Cutters were 30-28 winners over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Saturday.
However, early handling errors and some soft defence from the Cutters gifted the Sea Eagles two tries within the opening quarter of the game.
Centre Dylan Kelly was the first to trouble the scorers after just the seven minutes, plucking a nice cross field kick from halfback Pita Godinet out of the air to fall over the line.
Kelly converted his own try to give the Eagles a 6-0 lead.
Some slick hands from manly close to the line saw them cross for their second of the afternoon through winger Peter Schuster.
The Cutters hit back in the 23rd minute after a smart early kick by five-eigth Sahun Nona was chased downfield by flanker Kalifia Fai Fai Loa, who dove on the pill.
Manly hit back in the prior to halfhour mark after Godinet intercepted a Josh McCrone pass to run 65 meters to place it down under the sticks.
Kelly added the two points to extend the lead to 16-4.
A nice back line movement from the Cutters was finished off neatly by centre Levi Dodd, who beat a few defenders to grab the scarlet and whites second moments from half time.
Nona’s conversion made it 16-10.
The Cutters were dealt the news that they would have just 16 men for the second stanza after winger Yaw Kiti Glymin was ruled out with another hamstring injury.
The Sea Eagles came out with some a lot of confidence, putting enormous pressure on the Cutters defence.
The Sea Eagles however could not turn possession into points, after multiple chances down the left hand side with Drew Hutchison bundling winger Fritz in to touch on one occasion and diving on a loose ball the second.
The Cutters were first to score in the second half when centre Izaac Thompson dived on a cross field grubber by Hutchison in the 53rd minute.
After a see-sawing affair, Thompson crossed for his second of the afternoon off the back of a swift cut out pass by Dufty.
Manly struck right back in the 67th minute through Peter Schuster, diving over in the corner.
A great sideline conversion from Kelly extended the visitors lead to 22-18
Schuster was not finished yet when he scored a 60m try the set after points, off the back of a strong break from his centre partner.
Kelly added the two 28-18.
McCrone though rolled the dice with a short grubber in his own end, which payed off with Faifai Loa scooping it up to run over the stripe in the 76th minute to give the crowd a grandstand finish.
Dodd converted 28-24.
The Cutters threw the pill around in the dying stages, eventually landing in the hands of the man of the moment Faifai Loa who crossed for his third to level the scores.
Nona kicked the goal to give the Cutters the lead and the game.
Illawarra Cutters 30. Tries: Faifai Loa (3), Thompson (2), Dodd. Goals: Nona (2/4), Dodd (1/2).
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 28. Tries: Schuster (3), Godinet, Kelly. Tries: Kelly (4/5).