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The Newcastle Knights suffered another heart-breaking loss on the weekend. They went down 42-40 to the Manly Sea Eagles, which puts a huge dent in their finals aspirations. After the weekends results, they still find themselves in eighth position, but their grip is slipping quickly.
The Eagles didn?t take long to get themselves on the scoreboard when centre Jared Taylor scored his sides first points for the match out wide. Michael Witt added the conversion from wide out to extend his sides lead to 6-0. In the tenth minute, Knights halfback Dane Campbell, returning from a one week suspension, hit back for the home side, under the posts and locked the scores at 6. The following fifteen minutes was dominated by defence and as a result, both sides did not add to their scores. Nathan Hinton scored his first try of the afternoon, a superb individual effort, which started inside his own half, as he went straight through the Manly defence, before taking on Manly fullback Mark Lennon, and fending him off, before scoring beside the posts. Campbell?s conversion had the Knights in front 12-6. In the 30th minute, Luke Quigley scored from dummy half which, after the conversion from Campell extended the Knights lead out to 12. Campbell scored his second try of the half, in the 33rd minute, when Hinton, who was having a sensational game at fullback, had the ball stolen in a two-man tackle, with a try beckoning, to find Campbell diving on the loose ball in the in-goal. Campbell again added the extras and the Knights went to the break in control leading by 24-6.
The second half was dominated by the Manly side, who won the half 36-18. If they were going to be any chance in the match, they needed to be the first to score in the second half, which they did through halfback Travis Burns. That started a four try burst from the Eagles, in a twenty minute period. Just six minutes later, centre Jye Mullane crossed out wide, and after Witt?s successful conversion?s, had the gap closed to just 6. In the 55th minute, Knights five-eight and schoolboys captain, Jarrod Mullen, stemmed the flow of points from the visitors, when he crossed out wide, after fullback Lennon, dropped a bomb. Campbell added a penalty goal not long after the try, to put the Knights back out by 12. The Eagles continued to trade tries with the Knights, and Witt scored his first try of the match, to once again close the gap to 30-24. Burns scored his second try of the match to put the Sea Eagles well and truly back into the match and when Witt again added the extras, the scores were level at 30-30.
With just fourteen minutes remaining in the match, Knights centre Nathan McLoughlin put his sides nose back in front 34-30. Nathan Hinton, who was the Knights best player in the match by a long way, appeared to seal the result for the home side, when he scored his second try of the match with just 8 minutes remaining. He celebrated with a somersault, followed by a backflip and Campbell added the extras and the Knights led by 40-30 with 7 minutes remaining, and appeared to be home, especially after Manly half-back Travis Burns was sin-binned for a professional foul. Manly stole victory with two tries in the final six minutes, including the match-winner from the scrum to Witt.
The heart-breaking 2 point loss, was made harder to take for the Knights, after they found themselves in a similar position against North Sydney a fortnight ago, and they scraped home against the Bulldogs, after a similar fightback last week. If they are to get into the finals, the Knights cannot afford to give away huge leads in their remaining three games of the competition.
For the Eagles, Michael Witt was the difference between the two sides, scoring 2 tries and kicking 8 goals from as many attempts for a personal tally of 24 points. Next week the Knights travel to Canberra to take on the second placed Raiders, in a match they cannot afford to lose in their quest for a top 8 finish.