Manly Sea Eagles 50 def Newcastle Knights 16
A Manly side missing Michael Monaghan withstood an early arm wrestle with the Knights to break free and score some breath taking tries in a 9 tries to 3 performance.
It’s difficult to single out Manly players for praise, they all played individual roles perfectly – Brett Stewart scoring two tries as did Jamie Lyon. The outside backs for Manly proving their power and truly stepping up a level; with some skillful and graceful tries. Des Hasler would be extremely happy with the showing only weeks out from the NRL finals, already proving their worth in defence – this week they pulled all of the attack tricks out of the bag.
Unfortunately for the struggling Newcastle Knights – it made them look almost like a reserve grade team; several young chargers looking lost as the Manly juggernaut rolled through them like a steamroller. Coach Brian Smith copping some hard questions at the press conference and hinting the effects of recent weeks are more hurtful to his family than himself. For Newcastle, the mandate from the board of directors to clean the playing ranks out must be seen through – if it fails, they really need to sack themselves for poor vision.
The mostly Newcastle home crowd at Bluetongue Stadium; tried valiantly to get the local side going – but Manly were relentless. Steve Menzies injected at five eighth looking a good directional move for the Sea Eagles, his partner Matt Orford showcasing some sublime short kicks and going to the line himself; scoring on one occasion from a tough effort.
With Steve Menzies at pivot, Jamie Lyon is allowed to showcase his wares – proving a nightmare for Newcastle on the fringes. At centre, Lyon is always dangerous and looks to be shaking off his ‘overrated’ tag for NRL 2007. This is surely close to Manly’s best lineup; with Monaghan coming back into the team – they look formidable and will be quietly confident.
The positives for Newcastle, young halfback Scott Dureua ably performing in the no. 7 role. The debuting half looking confident and doing his best to wind up the Newcastle attack. Dureua didn’t have much support tonight, Kurt Gidley probably guilty of trying too hard – the classy fullback spilling some ball and adding the low confidence level.
The Newcastle Knights will be praying for the end of 2007, as will coach Brian Smith – as for Manly, their only enemy might be themselves. They are playing quality football and look capable of beating anyone (including the Melbourne Storm) if they don’t get the jitters they might just take the NRL prize in season 2007.