Golden Reign, Knights pip Manly 13-12

Newcastle Knights win Round 2, 2008 Scott Dureau the starIt was a golden point dream for the Newcastle Knights, long outsiders tonight against the Manly Sea Eagles at Energy Australia Stadium – Brian Smith’s men came home strong to expose a Manly side obviously missing the midas touch of Michael Monaghan in 2008 and yet to register an NRL win.

In a match played in slippery conditions, this game started as a penalty-a-thon with 3 fouls being blown in 3 minutes as Manly found themselves without a touch of the football until 10 minutes into the game. The warm-up not enough for the Knights, having four sets of 6 tackles on the Sea Eagles line and still unable to break through to score.

While unable to fully capitalize on the scoreboard, the Knights still got the confident start they wanted and continued to have a nice share of possession on the back of a well directed Scott Dureau 40/20 kick. The constant wave of Knights attack still proved fruitless, Manly looking rock solid in defence and the only thing troubling the scoreboard attendant was a Kurt Gidley penalty goal early on.

The Sea Eagles managed to keep their line in-tact, but they were obviously frustrated and jittery by the lack of ball and continued Knights enthusiasm – their chance finally coming in the 20th minute with a towering Manly bomb being spilled by Kurt Gidley – the Knights fullback impeded by a ‘sleepwalker’ style challenge from Matt Orford. The Ox running through and not playing at the ball, simply closing his eyes and jumping in the direction of the catcher. Gidley spilling the pill and Ballin cleaning up to touch down, but the play was called back as Anthony Watmough was ruled inside the 10m during the catch.

The scores remained low as Newcastle controlled the tempo and executed a perfect play the ball speed that gave Manly no chance of ramping up attack temp and the danger of Matt Orford and Jamie Lyon was well and truly nullified.  6-2 to Manly at the 34 minute mark.

While the two halves were kept quiet with the ball in their hands, they had some success in the air. This time, Orford sending up a towering spiral bomb that skimmed the posts and made things hard for Kurt Gidley, the custodian dropping the ball again and Jamie Lyon running through to score an opportunists try. Manly somehow conjuring up a try from nothing as they looked dead and buried.

The continual arm-wrestle was broken briefly as Manly broke the line through Michael Bani – the flying winger showing his true pace and leaving fellow speedster Cooper Vuna in his wake in a foot race that burner up the right flank. While tackled by Wes Naiqama, the Bani play set Manly up to score a certain try but some how Newcastle kept scrambling and were let off the hook by a horror Jamie Lyon kick that sailed into touch on the full.

The second half simply saw the arm wrestle continue. Low scoring and both sides trading sets of 6, for Newcastle however they rarely looked likely to score. Their attack looking predictable and poor last tackle options cost them dearly as they tried to stay in the battle against the fancied Manly. The Sea Eagles were aided by a passionate Josh Perry, always in the contest and looking keen against his old club.

In th 56 minute, Manly looked to have sealed the win with an impressive try to winger Michael Bani – coming from sustained pressure and a Cooper Vuna drop on the flanks. Bani proving busy all night and adding to his pace was his positional play and impressive defence work.

As they did all night, the Newcastle men hung in there. Their forwards looked like they were doing it tough against the higher ranking Manly pack – but on 65 minutes, new buy Chris Houston ran a nice angle to hit the gap between Jamie Lyon and Adam Cuthbertson to score a much needed try on the right hand flank. Gidley missing the kick, but the Knights in striking distance at 12-6 in arrears.

Newcastle then staged several promising raids towards the end of the match but couldn’t link the final pass to get them over the line. Things were turned on their head however in the 78th minute with replacement forward Richie Faaoso  charging onto a ball at full pace and steaming over the line, only minutes after bombing a certain try for his team. The redeeming play from Faaoso giving his team a shot at golden point and a miracle win.

Having that late ascendency, the Knights looked likey in golden point and only minutes into the first period – rookie halfback Scott Dureau potted a field goal from close to 40metres out – giving the Knights the extra time win and amazingly a 100% win record in 2008. The Sea Eagles on the other hand, yet to register a win and really missing the key weapon in Michael Monaghan.

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