Sea Eagles hold on against Knights

Round 23
Newcastle Knights 14 v Manly Sea Eagles 16
at EnergyAustralia Stadium
Referee: Paul Simpkins

Match Summary:

The Manly Sea Eagles have rocketed up to third spot on the NRL ladder after claiming a controversial 16-14 victory over the Newcastle Knights in front of 25,105 parochial Novocastrians tonight.

The Knights started the match strongly and were able to claim an early lead thanks to an Andrew Johns try in the 8th minute, and continued to create half-chances and near misses from the majority of the possession they were enjoying. The Sea Eagles posted their first points almost by accident, with Steve Menzies claiming a wayward Matt Orford kick before linking with his outside men for a try to Steve Bell, but the Knights were able to hit straight back before a late Matt Orford try gave the Sea Eagles a 10-8 lead at the split.

The score didn't change for the first 33 minutes of the second half, and both teams were producing performances definitely worthy of finals contenders. Each side had a heavy rotation of forwards, with the Knights using up all 12 of their interchanges by the 68th minute. Sea Eagles veteran Ben Kennedy suffered a corked knee and was forced from the field, but courageously returned to the fray before being forced off again after only a few short minutes.

The final seven minutes of the match produced plenty of action - first, Travis Burns found a half-gap in the Knights defence to create a try for Chris Hicks, and the Matt Orford conversion from touch gave the visitors an 8-point lead at a crucial time. But the Knights hit back swiftly after claiming a short kick-off, and Josh Perry was able to crash across to reduce the lead back to two points.

The final minute of the game was marred by a controversial decision from the match officials, who ruled that Sea Eagles centre Steve Matai hadn't played at the ball when it appeared he had deliberately knocked a pass forward. The play-on call handed possession to the Sea Eagles, costing the Knights their final shot at victory.

There were plenty of heroes for both teams tonight. Brett Stewart, Travis Burns and Steve Menzies were the pick of the Sea Eagles, and were well supported by centres Steve Bell and Steve Matai. The knee injury to Ben Kennedy will be a concern, and Brent Kite was also placed on report late in the match for a high tackle.

The Knights produced a strong forward effort led by Josh Perry, Steve Simpson and Kirk Reynoldson, and also had plenty of spark through Andrew Johns, Milton Thaiday, Matt Gidley and George Carmont in the backs. While they were right in the match until the very end, the Knights will be disappointed with a lack of a "killer instinct" when it appeared that they had the Sea Eagles well and truly on the ropes on a number of occasions.

Newcastle Knights: 14
Tries: Matthew Gidley, Andrew Johns, Josh Perry
Goals: Andrew Johns 1/3
Manly Sea Eagles: 16
Tries: Chris Hicks, Matt Orford, Steve Bell
Goals: Matt Orford 2/3

By the Clock:
Welcome to EnergyAustralia Stadium as we kick off Round 23 with a game between 4th & 5th - the Newcastle Knights up against the Manly Sea Eagles.

Late changes: Mullen is out for the Knights, replaced by Kurt Gidley with Chris Bailey taking a bench spot. Manly have swapped Kylie Leuluai and Brent Kite around, and George Rose nabs the last bench spot in place of Shayne Dunley.

KICKOFF: We're underway!

3 min: The Knights receive the first penalty of the night - a strong start from both teams here, plenty of hard running and big hits on defence.

4 min: Two attacking kicks from the Knights on the same tackle nearly puts Milton Thaiday over the line, but the ball is hoofed dead by a Manly defender - a line drop-out is the result.

6 min: Some great ball movement presents another half-chance for the Knights, but George Carmont gets a little too close to the sideline and throws the ball away.

8 min: VIDEO REF - possible Knights try ...

8 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
Kirk Reynoldson produces two sparking offloads in the same set - the second one creates a gap for George Carmont and Anthony Quinn down the flank, and Andrew Johns follows through to claim a try, despite a desperate tackle attempt from Brett Stewart.
Johns' conversion is waved away.
Knights 4-0

12 min: Brett Stewart creates a good chance with a nice offload to Matt Orford, but Orford spoils the chance with a risky no-look pass that is claimed by Andrew Johns.

14 min: The Knights force another line drop-out as Brett Stewart is tackled in goal. The drop-out is a shocker, only going 15 metres.

19 min: Brett Stewart falls over while trying to position himself underneath an Andrew Johns bomb - from the resulting scramble, the Knights knock the ball dead.

20 min: VIDEO REF - possible Sea Eagles try ...

20 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles
Matt Orford puts up a shocker of a kick just inside the Knights half, but it's claimed by Steve Menzies who manages to get the ball out wide. Suddenly the Sea Eagles find themselves some space, and Steve Bell combines beautifully with Chris Hicks before Bell claims a try right in the corner. There was a suggestion of a knock-on, but Bill Harrigan awards the try with benefit of the doubt.
Orford's conversion goes close, but not close enough.
4 all.

23 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
The Knights hit straight back after Brent Kite loses possession. Matt Gidley scores the try following some nice lead-up work from Andrew Johns and Milton Thaiday.
Johns misses the conversion.
Knights 8-4

27 min: Another Brent Kite error presents more excellent field position to the Knights - this time, Brett Stewart is able to dive on an Andrew Johns grubber kick to snuff out the chance.

31 min: A rare chance for the Sea Eagles coming up as some rushing defence forces an error from George Carmont inside the Knights half.

32 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles
Matt Orford embarrasses the Newcastle defence by scoring a try directly from a scrum win, running through some weak tackles to dot down under the posts.
Orford converts his own try.
Sea Eagles 10-8

37 min: Some more great work from Carmont & Quinn out wide creates some space for the Knights, and a chip in-field from Quinn in taken dead by Michael Monaghan.

38 min: Anthony Watmough seems to have suffered a shoulder injury and is quickly replaced - he's heading straight up the tunnel.

40 min: Newcastle let a Manly bomb bounce right on their own try-line, but Milton Thaiday is able to claim the scraps.

HALFTIME: Newcastle Knights 8 Manly Sea Eagles 10

It's been a pretty fast-paced first forty with plenty of strong hits on defence from both sides. Manly have done well to take a lead into the sheds after seeming to allow the Knights a fair bit of attacking latitude.

Possession: Knights 53% Sea Eagles 47%
Completion: Knights 14/21 Sea Eagles 14/18
Offloads: Knights 7 Sea Eagles 3
Total metres: Knights 812 Sea Eagles 637

The second half is underway!

43 min: A bit of a role reversal here - Clint Newton puts up a high kick that's claimed by Steve Menzies!

45 min: Manly receive a penalty ten metres out from the Knights line and opt to take the tap. Ben Kennedy is limping off the field.

47 min: Plenty of action here - the Sea Eagles receive a second penalty and choose to keep the pressure on - this time they force a goal line drop-out. Travis Burns has been shaken up in a strong tackle and looks a bit wobbly.

48 min: Manly try to throw the ball wide, but Steve Matai slips over and Brian Carney takes an intercept before heading upfield. Brett Stewart races across to make a much-needed tackle.

53 min: An attempted 40/20 early in the tackle count from Michael Monaghan is well claimed by Milton Thaiday.

56 min: A nice offload from Adam Woolnough creates some space for the Knights, and on the next tackle Brett Stewart is forced to take a grubber kick dead in-goal.

57 min: A knock-on halts the Knights attacking momentum when they were looking dangerous. Ben Kennedy is getting ready to come back on to the field for the Sea Eagles.

59 min: Milton Thaiday is put into a huge hole from a nice Andrew Johns pass, but the ball is fumbled as Thaiday tries to link up with Matt Gidley. A definite let-off for the Sea Eagles here.

61 min: Ben Kennedy returned for only a couple of minutes before coming off again, still limping badly.

65 min: Matt Orford grubbers into the Knights in-goal and Brian Carney seems to have interfered with Michael Robertson's run to the line, but neither the ref or the touch judge calls it.

CROWD: 25,105

68 min: VIDEO REF - possible Sea Eagles try ...

68 min: NO TRY - the faintest of knock-ons from Brett Stewart denies the Sea Eagles a try to Chris Hicks. The Sea Eagles have just had three consecutive attacking sets on the Knights line, but have now come up empty.

69 min: The Knights have used all 12 of their interchanges, the Sea Eagles still have 2 left.

71 min: We're in for an exciting finish here - both teams are looking tired but are continuing to put in plenty of effort. Steve Matai has gone down with an injury (cramp?) to give both teams a much-needed breather.

73 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles
A beautiful try here! Travis Burns spots a half-gap between two tired Knights forwards and goes straight through - he is well backed up by Brett Stewart who flick-passes out to Chris Hicks to bounce across the line.
Orford, from out wide, converts the try.
Sea Eagles 16-8

75 min: The Knights try a short kick-off and come up with possession.

76 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
It's not over yet!! Manly concede a penalty on their own line, and from the tap Andrew Johns puts Josh Perry over the line with a neat short pass.
Johns takes a super-fast conversion.
Sea Eagles 16-14

77 min: An idiot with a guitar has invaded the field, causing a slight hold-up in play.

77 min: ON REPORT - Brent Kite, for a high shot on Josh Perry. Penalty to the Knights.

78 min: Johns and Thaiday combine once more to create a chance, but the last pass goes to ground and is claimed by the Sea Eagles.

79 min: On his own 20 metre line, Travis Burns puts a kick out on the full. Last chance for Newcastle here.

80 min: An Andrew Johns pass is seemingly knocked down by a Manly player, but the ref rules play on and the Sea Eagles claim possession. Andrew Johns and Danny Buderus are blowing up big-time, and concede a penalty in doing so.

FULLTIME: Newcastle Knights 14 Manly Sea Eagles 16

The Manly Sea Eagles have produced a courageous effort to defeat the Newcastle Knights in front of a parochial Knights home crowd tonight.

Full time stats:
Possession: Knights 48% Sea Eagles 52%
Completion: Knights 28/40 Sea Eagles 35/41
Errors: Knights 14 Sea Eagles 6
Total metres: Knights 1615 Sea Eagles 1485

----------------------------------------- players of the match:
3 - Brett Stewart (Sea Eagles)
2 - Josh Perry (Knights)
1 - Travis Burns (Sea Eagles)