Parramatta escaped the Sea Eagles’ clutches in a thriller at CommBank Stadium on Friday night but Manly have copped a massive blow with scans revealing on Saturday that fullback Tom Trbojevic is likely out for the season after he suffered a dislocated shoulder.
The star fullback left the field with 15 minutes remaining with his left arm wrapped in his jersey as a makeshift sling after his shoulder popped out while preventing a Parramatta try.
With the NSW State of Origin team to be selected next Sunday for the opening match on June 8, the Dally M Medal winner also leaves a gaping hole for the Blues and his usual centre partner, Latrell Mitchell, has already been ruled out of Origin I due to a torn hamstring.
Trbojevic injured his shoulder in the 64th minute as he dived to prevent what would have been a rare try to Eels forward Makahesi Makatoa which was denied anyway for a fumble in the lead-up.
A try to Will Penisini in the 78th minute, followed by a pressure sideline conversion from Mitchell Moses, lifted Parra to a dramatic 22-20 triumph after the Sea Eagles looked like they would claim their first top-eight scalp of the season after five straight losses in matches against the sides in the top half of the competition table.
Manly coach Des Hasler after the game confirmed Trbojevic had dislocated the shoulder but said there was no timeline yet for how long he would be out. However, scans the following day confirmed he is likely to need surgery which would put him out for at least three months and also jeopardise his chances of representing Australia at the World Cup.
“He’ll be disappointed, he takes it very hard. He blames himself a lot. He’s just having one of those runs at the moment. He’ll bounce back,” Hasler said.
Sea Eagles skipper Daly Cherry-Evans added: “Everyone enjoys watching Tommy play, it doesn’t really matter who you cheer for, you’re cheering for the best players in the game to be out there and unfortunately Tom’s been injured a few times recently and it has an impact on our side. It’s just footy, it really is.
“We’ll get around him and make sure he’s alright but the reality is the comp keeps going and we’re going to have to have someone step in there next week and we’re going to come up against a really strong side in Melbourne.”
Hasler was fuming after the game about the refereeing performance and thought his team was hard done by in the lead-up to the final try when winger Christian Tuipolotu was penalised for a high shot on Hayze Perham when the Eels speedster was clearly slipping in the tackle.
“It wasn’t high. It was a good tackle. It was a brave tackle. They call it a ‘try-saver’. The idea of the game is defence, and the idea of a try-saver is to come up with big plays. It was a great play.”
After toppling premiers Penrith a fortnight ago, Parra were beaten by the Roosters last week but the win over the Sea Eagles has put them back up to a 7-5 record.
Clint Gutherson thought he had opened the scoring in his 150th NRL game inside the first four minutes when the Eels fullback collected a ricochet after a high kick but it was disallowed when Perham was ruled to have impeded Tuipolotu in the contest.
Manly drew first blood in the 14th minute when a Josh Schuster break eventually led to a long exchange along the backline for Reuben Garrick to touch down in the corner and convert his efforts into a 6-0 advantage.
Perham, after causing Parra’s first points to be stripped, made amends when he sliced over on the left edge following a chain of passing along the backs.
Tuipolotu made it 12-4 in the 23rd minute when he surged onto a looping Daly Cherry-Evans long pass in the right corner.
Perham notched his double at the 30-minute mark when Gutherson served up a try on a platter with a clever cut-out pass.
The 12-10 scoreline remained until half-time and the Sea Eagles also had an edge in personnel by the break when Moses was sent to the sin bin a minute before the interval for a professional foul on Trbojevic when the Manly fullback was backing up a break.
Trbojevic had no trouble getting in the clear four minutes after the resumption and he exploited the overlap to put centre Morgan Harper over to stretch the lead out to six.
Garrick grabbed his second to bring up the 50th of his career when he pounced on a Kieran Foran grubber shortly after Moses rejoined the fray for a 20-10 buffer.
Parra hit back midway through the second half when second-rower Shaun Lane unfurled a one-handed offload for centre Tom Opacic to cut the deficit back to four.
Sea Eagles prop Sean Keppie was marched to the bin with seven minutes remaining for a lifting tackle on Reagan Campbell-Gillard and his absence in the closing stages proved decisive.
Eels coach Brad Arthur thought the high shot on Perham deserved to be penalised.
“Hayze may have slipped, but at the end of the day if you make contact with someone in the head, you get penalised.”