The Manly Sea Eagles returned to Brookvale as they welcomed the Newcastle Knights, with both sides looking to bounce back from defeats in round seven.
Things didn’t start too brightly for Newcastle after Edrick Lee was forced off the field with a fractured radius.
After a knock-on from Lachlan Croker, the Knights piled the pressure on Manly and after forcing multiple repeat sets, it seemed as though the visitors may have picked up a penalty try.
Daly Cherry-Evans interfered with Lachlan Fitzgibbon as he chased a kick in behind by Mitchell Pearce.
It wasn’t quite a professional could due to the proximity of other Manly players, but the half-back faced ten minutes in the sin-bin and Ponga converted a penalty for a two-point lead.
The Knights should have scored their first try just after the ten-minute mark, but the pass from Ponga to Tex Hoy drifted forward and the try was disallowed.
After yet another mistake from Croker at the resulting scrum, Newcastle peppered the Sea Eagles try-line, and Andrew McCullough picked up from dummy-half and dived through the gap to score just to the side of the posts.
In the 20th minute, the Sea Eagles hit back, as Cherry-Evans, with one of his first touches since returning from the sin bin, stepped back inside off his left foot to beat Daniel Saifiti and dive over for a try.
Sione Mata’utia was the next to pick up a bad injury for the Knights, which left them down to 15 fit players for the rest of the game.
In the final minute before the break, the Knights made sure they took more than a two-point lead into the break.
Mitchell Pearce fooled the Manly defence with a short chip which was claimed by Kurt Mann in the air to score.
HALF-TIME: Manly Sea Eagles 6-14 Newcastle Knights
With both sides having gone set for set, with 100% competition in the opening ten minutes of the second half, it would take a moment of magic or a defensive errors for a team to score.
After Cherry-Evans high bomb was dropped by the Ponga, the Sea Eagles set up just five metres from the try-line and looked to work back into the game.
The Knights held firm though and remained eight-points ahead.
That was until the hour mark.
Cherry-Evans kicked high once again, but neither Ponga nor Brad Parker could cleanly claim the ball in the contest, which was then picked up off the ground by Cade Cust.
Unfortunately for the home side, Parker knocked the ball into Ponga which resulted in a knock-on and yet another disallowed try.
Five minutes later, Cust finally scored as he received a short ball from Cherry-Evans and crashed through the tackles of McCullough and Pasami Saulo to score.
Garrick converted to make it 12-14 with 13 minutes remaining.
The Knights still struggled to gain possession in the Manly half, and due to yet another defensive error, Manly gained the lead.
Another high kick from Cherry-Evans was contested between Danny Levi and Ponga, and once again ricocheted into Manly hands, this time picked up by Cherry-Evans to slide over.
Once again though, Levi knocked the ball into Ponga for a knock-on and a disallowed try.
Things got worse for the Knights, as in the collision with Levi, Ponga came off worse and left the field for a Head Injury Assessment.
With six minutes remaining, Manly once again found themselves with a fresh set of six inside the Newcastle ten-metre line.
Unfortunately, Cherry-Evans pass to Moses Suli was slightly behind the centre and yet another chance went begging.
The Sea Eagles had the ball in hand going into the final 30 seconds and after a break down the left from Tevita Funa, the winger kicked forwards, then was pushed in the back, off the ball from Bradman Best, and the ball was grounded by Andrew McCullough in the in-goal area.
With the decision for a penalty try taken to the Bunker not going in the Sea Eagles favour, both Jake Trbojevic and Addin Fonua-Blake appeared to be sent off for dissent after Manly should have been awarded a penalty for the push from Best on Funa.
It was confirmed that Fonua-Blake had been sent off after the game for calling referee , Grant Atkins, a “f*****g r*****”.
FULL-TIME: Manly Sea Eagles 12-14 Newcastle Knights
Manly Sea Eagles
Garrick, Taufua, Parker, Suli, Funa, Croker, Cherry-Evans, Fonua-Blake, Levi, Taupau, Thompson, Sironen, Trbojevic
Interchanges: Cust, Gosiewski, Keppie, Paseka
Tries: Cherry-Evans, Cust
Goals: Garrick (2/2)
Sent-Off: Fonua-Blake, Trbojevic
Ponga, Lee, Tuala, Best, Hunt, Mann, Pearce, Klemmer, McCullough, D. Saifiti, Fitzgibbon, Mata’utia, Ese’ese
Interchanges: Hoy. J. Saifiti, Guerra, Saulo
Tries: McCullough, Mann
Goals: Ponga (3/3)
Referee: G. Atkins
Touch Judges: D. Munro, B. Sharpe
Video Referee: B. Norris
Image Source: @NRL (Twitter)