Eastwood has ended the Marlins season and will advance to a preliminary final fixture against Sydney University, with star flyhalf Tane Edmed guiding his side to a 6-point victory over the Manly outfit.
Despite not being named in the starting side midweek, new Wallabies squad member Langi Gleeson and experienced scrumhalf Matt Lucas both started for the Marlins, while regular flyhalf Kemu Valetini shifted to the centres.
It wasn’t long before Valetini introduced the afternoon's first points, throwing a penalty goal over to take an early three-point lead.
After stealing the lead back off a Mark Nawaqanitawase try, persistent offside penalties from the Woodies allowed Manly sharpshooter, Kemu Valetini, to notch two further penalties and take his side to a 9-7 lead.
It was clear both sides would take every penalty opportunity awarded to them, with Edmed and Valetini each slotting another three-pointer inside the opening 20-minutes.
In a stop-start first quarter, sustained momentum was hard to secure. Hunter Ward did his best early to seize some forward pressure, with two bullocking runs challenging the Eastwood defence.
But again, it was ill-discipline that provided for all the points, as Woodies skipper Edmed pounced on another two penalty chances to take the advantage to 16-12.
Manly continued to persist with putting boot to ball, but the high ball raid was met well by Chris Bell and the Eastwood back three.
When the Marlins did find themselves with attacking lineout opportunities in the Eastwood third, indirect lineout execution from James Hilterbrand squashed both chances and ensured the Woodies 4-point lead was held to the break.
With ill-discipline accounting for most of the first-half scoring, both coaches would’ve likely been singing from a similar coaching hymn sheet during halftime.
Thankfully for fans, both Manly and Eastwood wanted to keep the ball in hand early in the second.
With Chris Bell showing off some silky general play kicking, again it was a poorly executed Manly lineout that gifted Eastwood the next scoring opportunity. Handed the ball only meters out, a crafty Edmed kick cross-field found an unmarked George Worth, with the winger waltzing over for the game's second.
As the lead extended, Bell’s presence in the match increased, with the Englishman pinning the Marlins deep via his right boot.
Another Edmed penalty in the 56th minute saw the Woodies lead grow to 14-points, as a Manly resurgence became increasingly necessary.
A yellow card to Eastwood’s Ed Craig moments later improved the likelihood of that resurgence, as the Marlins finally executed on a lineout to allow skipper Ivan Fepuleai to maul over for a much need try.
But again, Manly's momentum was limited by ill-discipline, with Tane Edmed slotting two more penalties as the score grew once more to 32-19.
With the clock winding down, the Marlins search for points intensified. A change at hooker saw instant set-piece improvement, as substitute Aaron Blacklock crossed to bring Manly within a converted try of a preliminary final.
As the game entered its final minutes, Eastwood’s defence remained resolute despite the barrage of Manly possession. Again, Blacklock threatened to cross the try line late, but a try saver from man of the match, Tane Edmed, ended the late Manly run and saw Eastwood hold on for a deserved semi-final victory.
Eastwood will now face Sydney University in next weekend's preliminary finals.
Manly 26 – 32 Eastwood
Randwick v Gordon – Coogee Oval, Sunday 3pm