Parramatta return to finals footy with Maika Sivo firing off a hat-trick as their new smiling assassin, while Martin Taupau could join fellow big gun Tom Tbrojevic in the stands as Manly do the same.
The Eels marched back into the winners' circle with a tense 32-16 win over the Sea Eagles, both teams already assured of a return to the post-season even with Manly wearing what seemed a fatal blow when Trbojevic tore his pec last week.
Taupau will face a nervous wait after knocking Ray Stone out with a swinging arm that hit the Parramatta benchman across his nose, the Samoan enforcer sin-binned midway early in the second half as Stone was taken off on the medicab.
Parramatta's Kane Evans was also binned and placed on report for collecting Brad Parker across the back of the head as Manly surged home.
Sivo, meanwhile, caused all sorts of chaos on his own, smiling the whole way.
Match: Eels v Sea Eagles
Round 25 -
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
- LIVE PASS
The 25,034-strong crowd at Parra's custom-built fortress responded in kind, a resounding "Sivo" chant ringing out when he bagged his 18th, 19th and 20th tries of the season – going past Latrell Mitchell as the NRL's leading tryscorer in the process.
More than ever Sivo reprised the frightening flyer role of first Eric Grothe, then compatriot Semi Radradra, as Parramatta ruthlessly dissected Manly's rejigged backline.
Sivo makes it 20 tries in his rookie season
Brendan Elliot was named at fullback during the week as Trbojevic's replacement, but started opposite Sivo with Reuben Garrick shifting from the wing.
Within minutes, though, Elliot was merely a bug on the Fijian's windscreen, Sivo simply flattening him before laying on Michael Jennings' opening four-pointer.
Throughout the first 40 minutes Sivo had a field day without reward, Garrick only just managing to hold him up in-goal on another occasion, Sivo then belting him in return as he covered up a short kick.
Coming off consecutive losses, but back at the new stadium where they hold an eight from 10 record, the Eels were on their way within 10 minutes.
Following Jennings' opening salvo, Parramatta came and conquered from the very next set.
Clint Gutherson this time was on the end of a long Waqa Blake break, early offloads and slick hands sending the former Panther deep into the backfield.
Sivo steamrolls down the touchline to set up Jennings
Manly's worries simply continued to mount. Big man Taniela Paseka was forced off early with a knee injury, Curtis Sironen also felled shortly after half-time by a foot injury.
When Taupau was binned Parramatta jumped out to a 16-2 lead.
But reduced to 12 men on the paddock, the Sea Eagles struck back through Manase Fainu, the young hooker burrowing through four defenders from a Lloyd Perrett offload.
Sivo's response – latching on to a Dylan Brown grubber down the short side – kept Parramatta in the ascendancy.
Fainu darts over from second phase ball
But Fainu got himself over once more, contentiously this time as a one-on-one strip on Perrett was answered in kind by Fainu.
The Tongan international then grubbered the ball ahead to score despite questions over a knock-on and exactly where Manly's advantage to play-on started and stopped.
When Taupau returned and Evans replaced him in the bin Manly trailed 22-16 and threatened to bridge the gap against a 12-man defence.
It was Sivo who put a stop to it.
Taupau sent to sin bin for high tackle on Stone
Once more finding himself one-on-one with a hapless Garrick from close range, the Parra powerhouse went straight through him with five minutes remaining.
Sivo's final salvo saw the Eels shift from one side of the field to the other, and pushed them past Manly into fifth place on points differential.
Parramatta now wait until Sunday to learn their finals opponents with Cronulla, Wests Tigers or Brisbane all a possibility.
Manly face the same equation, along with a mounting injury toll and the match review committee's verdict on Taupau.