Parramatta's crucial win over Manly on Friday night was overshadowed by 'shambolic' scenes after a positive RAT test was discovered in the media room at 4 Pines Park.
The Eels dealt the Sea Eagles' slim finals hopes a significant blow after a strong second half saw the visitors power to a 36-20 victory.
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Manly's latest defeat came after a week to forget for Des Hasler's side, following the pride jersey saga that saw seven players boycott their previous match against the Roosters in protest at wearing the rainbow-designed strip.
The Sea Eagles welcomed the boycotting players back for Friday night's defeat to Parramatta, but the club found itself at the centre of a fresh controversy involving a positive RAT test after the match.
Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans opted not to conduct his press conference after reporters covering the game discovered a positive RAT test cartridge in the media room.
Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler conducted his interview as planned but Parramatta's players refused to do any interviews for fear of potential exposure to the virus.
Eels coach Brad Arthur did speak with the media, but played it safe by conducting the makeshift press conference in the hallway outside the toilets in the 4 Pines sheds.
The positive RAT test cartridge was later removed by an NRL official, although it's unclear how it got there or who it belonged to.
News Corp’s Martin Gabor tweeted: “Drama at 4 Pines Park. A positive RAT was found in the post match press conference room. Des Hasler did his press conference but DCE played it safe. Eels are concerned and it looks like their presser will be delayed and moved.”
AAP’s Scott Bailey added: “Absolute shambolic scenes at Brookvale. Positive RAT cartridge sitting in the designated press conference room. None of the journalists behind it. DCE opted out of presser while Brad Arthur moved his outside and no Eels players spoke as a result.”
Absolute shambolic scenes at Brookvale. Positive RAT cartridge sitting in the designated press conference room. None of the journalists behind it. DCE opted out of presser while Brad Arthur moved his outside and no Eels players spoke as a result. #NRLManlyEels
— Scott Bailey (@ScottBaileyAAP) August 5, 2022
TOILET PRESSER: How good are suburban grounds? A COVID positive was found in media room. So BA shifted his presser to Brookie loo pic.twitter.com/CzNMoK0aJN
— christian nicolussi (@mrchrisnico) August 5, 2022
A defiant Hasler insisted after the game that Manly's season was not over despite the 16-point defeat leaving them needing a minor miracle to make the finals.
Clint Gutherson starred with a hand in four of the Eels' tries, with the Manly junior sticking the knife into his old club and pushing Parramatta towards the top-four race.
Jake Arthur also set up two second-half tries, turning the match with two crucial second-half plays just a fortnight after being booed by Parramatta fans at CommBank Stadium.
The halfback's effort came after a difficult opening half in defence as Manly cut the Eels' left-edge to shreds and Jason Saab broke the line four times.
Eels storm home to leave Manly's season on life support
The big margin came despite Manly leading 20-14 with 25 minutes to play, before Arthur stepped up and Parramatta ran in the last four tries.
With four rounds to play after this weekend, the Sea Eagles sit four points behind eighth-placed South Sydney and with a far inferior for-and-against record.
"We have to win four-from-four from here," coach Hasler said.
"That would give us a chance, but anything less is not going to work.
"We've got the players to do it. We just have to find a way and just have to win.
"We were certainly in a position to win tonight ... and we didn't. We can't afford to do that."
Making matters worse for Manly is a hamstring injury for Kieran Foran, likely to rule him out of the clash with Gold Coast on Sunday week.
Parramatta, meanwhile, are level on wins with fourth-placed Cronulla and eyeing a second chance in the finals if they keep their winning ways.
The Eels' starting forwards, Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard, were again dominant, while Shaun Lane threw offloads in the lead-up to two tries.
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