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The Newcastle Knights continued their push for a top four birth after a thrilling 22-20 win against the Manly Sea Eagles on the weekend. After results went their way during the weekend, the Knights now find themselves in fourth position on the Jersey Flegg table.
After a tense opening twenty minutes in which the match went from end to end, with desperate defence keeping the match scoreless until the 23rd minute, when Knights fullback Stephen Gordon received a perfectly timed inside pass from halfback Luke Walsh, before proceeding to score under the posts. Walsh?s conversion made the score 6-0 after a tense opening to the match. Just three minutes later, Manly hit straight back, when halfback Aaron Groom,like a thief in the night, swooped on a Scott Dureau pass, and raced 70 metres to score under the posts. Winger Terry Kelly successfully converted and the scores were locked at 6-6. Five minutes before the halftime break, the Sea Eagles put themselves in front, after a 60 metre movement, started by Groom, which was finished by interchange forward Ina Papera, who crossed beside the posts. Again, Kelly added the extras, and it appeared the Eagles were going to go to the halftime break with a lead. With just 30 seconds left on the clock and the Knights pressing the Manly line, halfback Walsh threw a superb dummy and went through some paper-thin Manly defence, to cross under the posts. He converted his own try and the two sides went to the halftime break all locked up at 12.
7 minutes into the second half, Knights hooker Nathan Berry, returning to the Flegg side, after a few weeks playing Premier League, once again put the Knights back in front, when he scored out near the eastern touchline. Walsh failed to add the extras and the Knights led by 16 points to 12. Again, both teams continued to complete their sets and in the 49th minute, Manly winger Kelly hit back for his side, as both teams continued to go try for try. His conversion attempt from out wide, was unsuccessful and 16-16 was the score, with 20 minutes remaining. 8 minutes later, the Knights put their noses in front once again, when interchange forward Wille Shillings scored his sides go-ahead try, 20 metres in from the western touchline. Walsh was injured in the lead-up,appearing to suffer a corked thigh, which made him unavailable to take the conversion attempt. Five-eight Scott Dureau, stepped up and calmly potted the conversion to put the Knights back in front by 6, 22-16. Manly refused to lie down though, and Kelly scored his second try of the afternoon to close the gap to just two points with the conversion to come. Unfortunately for the Manly side, he failed to add the extras and the Knights led by 22-20 with 9 minutes remaining. During the final nine minutes, the Knights struggled to get out of their own half, as Manly?s defence muscled up. As a result of this, the Eagles had field position to score the match-winning try, but they blew two golden opportunities during this period, one of which involved a dropped ball over the line, which had the Manly bench up as one, believing they had won the game, only to see the referee putting down a scrum. The Knights somehow managed to hang on and secure their spot in the top 8. After both the Bulldogs and Roosters, who were above them on the table, were defeated during the weekend, the Knights climbed into fourth position on the table.
For the Knights, halfback Luke Walsh continues to improve every week, with Nathan Berry also having a strong game out of dummy half. Next week the Knights travel to the nation?s capital to take on the Canberra Raiders, who are just out of the 8, and who require a win in this particular match to keep their finals chances alive. For the Knights, if they want to finish in the top four, they need to keep on winning to ensure that happens.