Sea Eagles young guns provide some light amid the gloom

The Manly Sea Eagles have enjoyed some much-needed good news on Saturday, with the northern beaches club claiming the Harold Matthews Cup for the first time.

Making history: The Manly Sea Eagles have claimed the Harold Matthews Cup for the first time.

Established in 1970, the New South Wales Rugby League's under-16 competition has traditionally been dominated by the western Sydney clubs, with Parramatta lifting the trophy a whopping 20 times, Penrith seven and Canterbury-Bankstown three.

And it was the Eels who looked set to make it title No.21 in Saturday's decider at Leichhardt Oval, holding on to a slender lead with just a couple of minutes remaining before Uinitoni Mataele turned a 16-18 deficit into a 22-18 lead. A Cameron Brown intercept at the death saw the Sea Eagles victorious, 26-18.

Party time: Uinitoni Mataele is mobbed after scoring a late try in the grand final of the Harold Matthews Cup.

Earlier, Manly had led 10-0 before taking a 10-8 lead into half-time, which was quickly erased by the Eels, who scored three straight tries for an 18-10 advantage.

The historic win comes at a turbulent time for the Sea Eagles, who have endured a torrid start to their top-grade season. They sit equal bottom of the ladder with just two wins from eight games, and have been embroiled in multiple off-field scandals, namely the Jackson Hastings saga, and breaches of the salary cap which saw them fined $750,000 and two officials banned for 12 months.

It was also the club's first trophy at either junior level, having never won the SG Ball Cup competition for under-18 players. They did, however, win the Jersey Flegg Cup for under-20s in its inaugural season in 1961, before lifting the trophy on two more occasions.

Flegg was abolished from 2008 to 2017 to make way for the National Youth Competition, before returning in 2018.

The Eagles will remain the eternal champions of the NYC, winning the last grand final in 2017 – oddly enough, with a last-minute converted try against Parramatta.

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