Mullen the Hero in Finals Cliffhanger

Finals 2006 Week 1
Newcastle Knights 25 v Manly Sea Eagles 18
at EnergyAustralia Stadium
Referee: Sean Hampstead
Crowd: 23,752

Match Summary:

The Newcastle Knights have kicked off the 2006 Finals Series with a bang coming from behind to beat the Sea Eagles 25-18 at a packed out Energy Australia Stadium in Newcastle tonight. The visiting Sea Eagles went into the break with a 12-0 lead but their achilles heel in the second half was their ball handling.

In a game that lived up to its expectations, it was fiery at times with three sin bins in total throughout the match. This included a brawl ten minutes after halftime that resulted in the sinbinning of Knights? George Carmont and Sea Eagle Travis Burns. Just two minutes out from fulltime Manly captain Ben Kennedy was sinbinned after he escalated a situation after a spear tackle from Newcastle?s Danny Buderus.

After all the possession with the Knights in the opening ten minutes, the away side opened the scoring on their first visit down in to the Newcastle 20. A long cut out pass from Matt Orford found Brett Stewart which sent him into a yawning gap as he sped away for the opening try.

Once again the Knights had all the possession and on the back of a Brian Carney intercept were locked down in the Manly quarter. With numbers on his outside, hooker Danny Buderus lofted a long ball out to the wing which was intercepted by Manly?s Michael Robertson. He ran over 90 metres to stretch the margin out to 12.

Frustration crept into the Knights as the game headed for the half time interval and it got even worse for the home side as Carmont had a try disallowed just a minute from halftime as he forced in touch ingoal from some outstanding Sea Eagles defence.

The two sides entered the second half fired up for victory as less than ten minutes after the break a brawl started in a tackle with first punches thrown by Travis Burns. George Carmont reacted and was subsequently binned for ten minutes.

On the back of this penalty going the home side?s way, Andrew Johns crashed over from close range to cut the margin back within a try.

Just when things were looking positive for the Knights, in the space of two minutes veteran Craig Smith was put on report for a high tackle, which was followed by a miracle try for Manly that was finished off by Kiwi Steve Matai. A grubber kick through from Orford look to be heading for the corner post before Michael Robertson plucked the ball out of thin air and threw it back inside to Matai for the try.

It may have looked bleak for the Knights, however it was Johns and Kurt Gidley who revived any hope that the home fans still had. Close to the line, Johns took the ball to the line and found LeagueUnlimited?s man of the match Kurt Gidley on the inside who scored under the posts.

Under ten minutes later, Newcastle had levelled the score after Kurt Gidley once again took a ball back on the inside from Johns who stretched out and without any hint of a double movement scored beside the posts.

After a field goal attempt from Andrew Johns was charged down from Ben Kennedy before rookie five-eighth Jarrod Mullen was given the honours of taking the next shot a minute later. He slotted the point and five out from fulltime the Knights were in front for the first time.

With three minutes left in the match, Manly received another blow as captain Ben Kennedy was sent to the sin bin after escalating a situation following a 'spear tackle' from Danny Buderus.

Just a minute later, Matt Orford had a field goal shot which was charged down by lock Reegan Tanner, which was followed by a penalty being awarded on the western touchline to the Sea Eagles for offside.

The shot at goal from Matt Orford was waved away and caught by Jarrod Mullen who ran 99 metres before being stopped inches short of the try line. Later in the set the Knights sealed the match with a controversial try when winger Brian Carney appeared to be held after taking the ball from a cross-field kick. Referee Hampstead ruled play on and the Irish winger squirmed out of a tackle to score in the corner.

Johns converted the try and the Knights had run out victors in the great escape 25-18. There are a few problems heading into next week for Newcastle however. Danny Buderus could miss the rest of the season through suspension after the lifting tackle he inflicted late in the match.

Other problems include an expected crucial ligament tear to the knee of fullback David Seage that will leave him out for the rest of the season as well. Steve Simpson has a jarred shoulder which occurred early in the first half but is expected to play next weekend.

Newcastle Knights: 25
Tries: Kurt Gidley(2), Andrew Johns, Brian Carney
Goals: Andrew Johns 4/4
Field Goals: Jarrod Mullen
Manly Sea Eagles: 18
Tries: Brett Stewart, Steve Matai, Michael Robertson
Goals: Matt Orford 3/4

By the Clock:
For the Knights,Milton Thaiday is out with David Seage going to fullback.Todd Lowrie drops off the interchange bench with Jarrod Mullen to start from the interchange break with Kurt Gidley winning the number 6 jumper.

Your referee for this First Qualifying Final is Sean Hampstead while the Sea Eagles are yet to win a game in the finals since 1990.Last year,finishing eighth,they were knocked out convincingly by the Eels at Parramatta Stadium while the Knights were wooden spooners.

The Sea Eagles are on the way out,led by former Novocastrian Ben Kennedy in their all white jerseys.

Here comes Joey Johns and the Knights in the navy blue jerseys.

1 min: Manly kicks off!!!

3 min: A vocal Newcastle crowd get a penalty for a Manly player being offside and they go straight on the attack.

4 min: A cross-field bomb from Johns is tapped back by Carney and Matt Gidley goes within an inch of scoring off the rebound but is held up short of the line.

6 min: Terrible news here for Newcastle as David Seage has done his knee and is assisted from the field.

10 min: A knock on by Anthony Quinn in his own half sends Manly on the attack.

12 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles
A long cutout pass from Matt Orford sends Custodian Brett Stewart in to a yearning gap and he runs around to score outwide in the first points of the evening.
Orford converts the try.
Sea Eagles 6-0

14 min: A knockon on the first tackle from Manly sends Newcastle back on the attack.

15 min: An amazing passage of play.Carney goes for the line on tackle 5 and is held up over the line,this if followed by Simpson going up the tunnel for Newcastle with a shoulder injury now Manly knock on on the first tackle.

17 min: On the two injury fronts:Seage looks like a cruciate ligaement damage while Simpson a possible jarred shoulder.

22 min: Touchjudge Steve Carrall is coming in for a report...It is a penalty to Newcastle on a late tackle from Matai on Johns but there looked to be nothing in it.

26 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles
Amazing passage of football by both sides..Manly attacks the Newcastle line before a Carney intercept sees Newcastle go on the attack with 3 consecutive attempts.Some amazing defence especially outwide by the visitors and the Knights with an overlap spin the ball outwide before winger Michael Robertson rushes up and takes an intercept to run 90 metres to score.
Orford converts.
Sea Eagles 12-0

30 min: A chip over the top from Johns is knocked on from Stewart so here come the Knights.

32 min: Newcastle get a repeat set from a penalty but Matt Gidley throws the ball over the sideline,some outstanding goalline defence from Manly.

35 min: Simpson back on for the Knights.

37 min: A bit of push and shove in back play between Carmont and Hicks,the frustration really showing for the Knights.

38 min: An error from Steve Bell and the Knights have two minutes and 20m to go to get something out of the first half.

39 min: Going upstairs for an unlikely Knights try...

39 min: NO TRY - George Carmont dives for the corner but great defence puts him over the touch ingoal line.

Halftime - The Manly Sea Eagles are showing what it takes to win a premiership out there tonight.Some amazing cover and goal line defence with all the possession going Newcastle's way.On the Sea Eagles' first visit down field,Brett Stewart score through some poor defence from the Knights while their second try came from a 90m intercept.The Sea Eagles must hold on to the ball as their ball security has been quite poor in the first half,their defence is winning them the contest.The Knights have been attacking the fringes of the ruck including the centres till the cows come home,however to win this contest,they must go through the centre of the ruck using Danny Buderus.

Both sides are back on the paddock,second half about to get underway.

40 min: Knights kick off.

46 min: Manly get a piggy back penalty and go on the attack as Carmont took out Steve Bell on a kick through.

49 min: Referee Hampstead seems to be losing control as the Sea Eagles are giving too many penalties.

50 min: Punch Up - A fight has started on the eastern touchline.Travis Burns and George Carmont are in the sin bin.

51 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
Andrew Johns close to the line slices through some poor goal line defence and the Knights are back.A bit of push and shove after the try was scored aswell.
Johns converts his own try.
Sea Eagles 12-6

53 min: On Report - Veteran Craig Smith on report for a high tackle.

54 min: Going to check for a Sea Eagles gem of a try...

55 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles
One of the tries of the season as a short grubber through by Matt Orford is plucked just before htting the corner post by Michael Robertson and before he hits the corner post he somehow flings the ball back in for Steve Matai to score in the corner.
The conversion from the sideline from Orford is a ripper.
Sea Eagles 18-6

57 min: Kurt Gidley runs the ball from 40 out on tackle 5 and gets to the 20 before offloading wildly to Craig Smith who can't hang on to it.

61 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
The Knights are back and it is the brilliance of Johns close to the line once again.Johns runs the ball to the line with runners inside and out and he hits Kurt Gidley on the inside who goes over under the posts.
Johns converts and they are back within a try.
Sea Eagles 18-12

63 min: Orford knocks on when trying to play the ball and once again it is poor handling from the Sea Eagles and the Knights go on the attack.

65 min: Andrew Johns limping near the sideline.

69 min: Checking for a Knights try...

70 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
Try Try Try!!!It is Kurt Gidley again who is having an absolute blinder in the second half.Johns attacks the line and on the inside is the five-eighth come fullback to score despite Hampstead checking for a double movement.
Johns converts and we are locked up.
18 all.

72 min: This time Matt Gidley goes on a surge down the western touchline but once again his trademark flick goes in to touch.

73 min: Kennedy knocks on and the Knights go on the attack,the Sea Eagles are self-destructing.

74 min: ATTEMPTED FIELD GOAL Newcastle Knights
Andrew Johns takes the snap from 30 out and it is charged down,the rebound is knocked on by Orford and the Knights get a repeat.
18 all.

75 min: FIELD GOAL Newcastle Knights
Jarrod Mullen has become a cult hero as from 25m out he plots a field goal to put the Knights in front for the first time.
Knights 19-18

77 min: A spear tackle from Danny Buderus and they run in from left right and centre with push and shove.Kennedy in the bin and Buderus on report.

78 min: ATTEMPTED FIELD GOAL Manly Sea Eagles
An attempt from Orford is charged down by Reegan Tanner.
Knights 19-18

79 min: ATTEMPTED PENALTY GOAL Manly Sea Eagles
A penalty to the Sea Eagles on the western touchline and they elect to shoot for goal.The shot is waved away and Mullen runs 99m before being held up inches away from the line.
Knights 19-18

80 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
It is all over here in Newcastle with a controversial try.A bomb from Johns to the corner with just seconds remaining is taken on the full by Carney and he looks to be held about 5m out from the line.Quite a few seconds later he squirms away and Hampstead rules play on and awards the try to Carney.
Johns from the sideline converts.
Knights 25-18

Fulltime - The Knights have gotten out of jail in a controversial yet dramatic ending.Article to come.
----------------------------------------- players of the match:
3 - Kurt Gidley (Knights)
2 - Steve Matai (Sea Eagles)
1 - Brent Kite (Sea Eagles)