NYC grand final: Manly Sea Eagles come from the clouds to beat Parramatta Eels

It's doubtful any of Paul Green's North Queensland Cowboys were in their seats in time to see the final two minutes of Sunday's Holden Cup grand final.

But hopefully someone passed on what they missed.

"No-one believed in us," said the winning tryscorer for eighth-placed Manly, 17-year-old replacement Keith Titmuss. "All we did was back ourselves … here we are in the grand final and we won."

Like the Cowboys, the Sea Eagles limped into the play-offs. On the big day, they trailed 14-0 to Parramatta 12 minutes before half-time and it looked as though coach Wayne Lambkin was heading for a slaughter.

It's hard to say what happened then. The Eels even managed a miraculous try-save to underscore their superiority. But the Sea Eagles simply took the ball back 10 metres, played it, shifted quickly to the left and scored their first try via winger Tevita Funa.

Parramatta couldn't score again until the 67th minute.

Lambkin's side saved their best for the dying minutes of each half. In the first, that meant winger Bilal Maarbani chasing a Cade Cust kick and dotting down just short of the dead-ball line at the north end. With Funa's conversion, 14-4 was 14-10.

Halfback Cust and five-eighth Tom Wright combined for second-rower Blake Andrews to score four minutes after the resumption of play. The missed conversion left it at 14-14 for the next 23 minutes of tense exchanges.

As is often the case in a final when a deadlock is broken, Parramatta looked like they believed they had been rewarded for their early dominance in the 67th minute. Nice hands in the south-eastern corner resulted in winger Greg Leleisiuau dotting down and Funa couldn't convert.

Based on the game in its totality, that's where the scoring was entitled to stay – a four-point Parra win.

But given the chance to attack Parramatta on their own line, Sea Eagles captain Manase Fainu prised open some space on the left and Titmuss – he of Newington College and a Youtube highlights video backed with edgy hiphop – gave us an extravagant swan dive to to claim the leveller.

Still, Funa had to convert from just to the left of the posts. Replays suggested he almost missed.

"It was a good experience," Titmuss told ABC. "Being only 17, I only got to come on in the second half and add some impact and I just tried to do my best."

The Sea Eagles are the second team in the history of the under-20 competition to win from eighth. They are also the last, with the league to disappear in its current form in 2018.

Eels fullback Anthony Layoun lamented: "We were unlucky with the last play and that's it, that's how it goes.

MANLY 20 (T Funa B Maarbani B Andrews K Titmuss tries Funa 2 goals) bt PARRAMATTA 18 (D Brown D Tonise G Leleisiuao tries Brown 3 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: P Henderson.