Manly have proven they’re not a one-man team after a comprehensive 30-6 win over the Knights.
With Tom Trbojevic out for at least a month, many punters doubted that the Sea Eagles’ chances, but they silenced their critics with their bench in particularly impressing on Thursday night.
The game kicked off in bizarre fashion when Manly prop Martin Taupau stayed down in visible pain after the very first tackle.
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Commentator Andrew Voss and analyst Michael Ennis couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the star forward, but the Knight in the tackle, Chris Randall was put on report… much to the confusion of Voss Ennis.
“He’s on report… what for? What have we missed?” Ennis said.
“This is a stunning start to the game.”
It looked as if the Knights had opened the scoring through Dominic Young, however the try was disallowed due to an obstruction. To add salt to the wound, Young was injured in the act of scoring and was taken from the field.
Five minutes later Andrew Davey crossed for the first try of the night off a flat ball from Dylan Walker — who had just come onto the field.
Manly doubled down after Daly Cherry-Evans set up Morgan Harper.
The blows kept on coming for the Knights as Kalyn Ponga left the field for a HIA and Jirah Momoisea also left the field with a dislocated elbow.
The Knights got some good news though in time for the second half with Ponga passing his HIA, but it was short-lived with Adam Clune suffering a knee injury. The halfback played on but had to be strapped.
Keeping in the theme of the night, Manly got their own bout of bad luck with Andrew Davey leaving the field with a HIA.
Ponga had an immediate impact on his side, scoring their first try of the night to get Newcastle into the game.
He almost picked up a try assist too later on had Randall not knocked on in the put-down.
But Manly responded through Karl Lawton who darted over from dummy-half and then Haumole Olakau’atu who scored off a Dylan Walker grubber three minutes later.
They put the nail in the coffin in the final two minutes when Lawton put a grubber in for Taniela Paseka.
TURBO-LESS SEA EAGLES SILENCE DOUBTERS
Manly have proven once and for all they are more than just Tom Trbojevic.
When news of Turbo’s injury broke, no doubt there were some nervous fans on the northern beaches – and for good reason too.
According to Fox Sports Lab, since 2019 Manly have won over 70 per cent of the matches Turbo plays in and just a third of their games with him missing.
With the superstar fullback on the sidelines all eyes were on his replacement, Reuben Garrick.
Garrick was solid at the back without overplaying his hand, making 133 metres and getting three tackle busts.
The pressure also mounted on skipper Daly Cherry-Evans to back up last week’s stunning performance – even more so while a marquee man is out.
Cherry-Evans, who is fresh off signing a two-year extension with Manly, showed his class with a long kick to set up Morgan Harper.
“In a split second Cherry-Evans sums it up perfectly, (Kurt) Mann out of position with Ponga off the field and the left edge of Newcastle just up too far,” Fox League analyst Michael Ennis said.
“Harper knew what the captain was going to do and the famous right boot of Cherry-Evans delivers again. The weight off the kick (was) perfect, the bounce (was) perfect, the put-down from Harper (was) perfect.”
Commentator Andrew Voss was equally impressed.
“Daly Cherry-Evans, the kicking masterclass, the class is in session… it’s moved from Mudgee to Newcastle. It’s a travelling road show,” he said referring to Manly’s Round 4 win over the Raiders.
The star No.7 did have a moment that proved he is human after all. He was clearly flying high with confidence when he kicked cross-field early in the set in the hopes of finding Jason Saab only for the ball to go over the sideline.
The Knights looked to have scored off the next set, except it was ruled a no-try.
“Apart from that kick across the field, he’s been magnificent tonight,” Ennis said
“In a week where we all picked up our tipping sheets and saw no Tom Trbojevic and started to lean towards Newcastle… it’s been a spirited performance from Des Hasler’s men.”
HASLER’S UNLIKELY HEROES
While the likes of Garrick and Cherry-Evans stood up for the Sea Eagles, the four men who started off the bench also deserve just as much applause.
Dylan Walker was instrumental in the win with the utility setting up two tries, getting a linebreak assist and running for 81 metres. Meanwhile Karl Lawton scored a try, set up another, got a linebreak and thee tackle busts.
Sean Keppie came on at a crucial time of the game and used his fresh legs to cause havoc. Then there was Taniela Paseka who not only scored the final try of the game but also ran for 111 metres and made 15 tackles with zero missed.
“The bench for Des Hasler have been absolutely brilliant tonight… they’ve been the difference,” Ennis said.
KNIGHTS’ INJURIES WOES
Knights coach Adam O’Brien will walk away from Thursday’s loss with some unavoidable headaches after losing two players to injury and having another one under a dark cloud.
The blows started when Dominic Young left the field in the 20th minute after copping a knock to his knee while attempting to score. Knights medical staff are hopeful there’s no structural damage, however the towering winger will be sent for scans.
O’Brien would have held his breath when Kalyn Ponga left the field looking a little ginger after a big tackle. But in some much-needed good news, the superstar fullback returned to the field in the second half after passing his HIA.
But the same couldn’t be said about Jirah Momoisea who was seen in the sheds with a green whistle at half time after dislocating his elbow.
Halfback Adam Clune went down with a knee injury early in the second half but persevered. He was however attended to by a trainer twice throughout the rest of the game and had his knee strapped.
Commentator Andrew Voss suggested that the No.7 could have been staying out on the field only out of necessity given his team was already down to 15 men.
While Ponga saw out the rest of the game there was feeling that he wasn’t 100 per cent.
Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Dominic Young 3. Dane Gagai 4. Bradman Best 5. Enari Tuala 6. Jake Clifford 7. Adam Clune 8. Jacob Saifiti 9. Chris Randall 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Brodie Jones 13. Kurt Mann 14. Phoenix Crossland 15. Sauaso Sue 16. Leo Thompson 17. Jirah Momoisea Replacement player: 18. Simi Sasagi
Sea Eagles: 5. Reuben Garrick 2. Jason Saab 20. Brad Parker 4. Morgan Harper 3. Christian Tuipulotu 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Martin Taupau 11. Haumole Olakau’atu 12. Andrew Davey 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Dylan Walker 15. Karl Lawton 16. Sean Keppie 17. Taniela Paseka Replacement player: 24. Ben Trbojevic
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