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Norman turns new NRL leaf for Parramatta

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 5/03/2017 Scott Bailey

Eight months after he was rubbed out of the game for the remainder of the 2016 season, Corey Norman returned to signal the new Parramatta era at Lottoland.

Norman was the Eels' best in the 20-12 season-opening win over Manly, scoring one try and setting up another as he controlled the game perfectly in the comfortable victory.

A symbol of the Eels' tumultuous and salary-cap scandal ravaged 2016 season, Norman was suspended for the final eight games last July for a number of off-field incidents.

However after Manly opened the scoring early on Sunday he quickly started to make up some ground for his mis-deeds, starting with a try off his own kick to level the scores.

"He definitely made a difference for us," Eels coach Brad Arthur said.

"I thought he was out on his feet. He's going to get a lot better for us. He's not happy with how he played and that's good he's setting high expectations."

Norman played a key role in the Eels' next try, driving a kick along the sideline to produce a 40-20 after the Eels looked like they would be trapped deep in their own end on the last.

From the ensuring attacking raid he laid on a pass to Manu Ma'u, who produced a flick offload for Bevan French to score.

Returning after the break with a 14-6 lead, Norman twice trapped Manly in-goal with kicks early, before the pressure finally told as he laid the last pass for halves partner Clint Gutherson to score.

The match was the pair's first together at No.6 and No.7, after Gutherson shifted to five-eighth following Norman's suspension last year and they didn't feature in any trials together.

"They're going to take time," Arthur said.

Manly looked every bit the side that had undergone a massive overhaul in the off-season.

They completed just 21 of 31 sets, and Daly Cherry-Evans and his new halves partner Blake Green had little chance to combine as Manly struggled for field position and had just 38 per cent of the ball.

"You can't expect to win when you make the errors that we made," coach Trent Barrett said.

"We made it too hard for ourselves in the end."

The Sea Eagles also trailed the penalty count 7-5, including a crucial one in the 66th minute, allowing the Eels to extend their lead to 20-6.

Centre Brian Kelly was a rare bright spark for Manly on debut, opening the scoring with his second touch as he jinked his way to the line in the sixth minute.

However it would be Manly's only points until the 77th minute, when Green scored a late consolation try.

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