Sea Eagles 6
The Newcastle Knights turned back the years as they upset the defending premiers Manly in Newcastle last night.
In a replay of the 1997 ARL Grand Final, in which the underdog Knights proved too good for the highly-rated Manly side, the Knights turned in an impressive display as they kept their slim finals chances alive with the rivalry round win over one of the competition heavyweights.
The Sea Eagles blew a golden opportunity to move towards the top of the standings and, while they remain inside the top eight, will come under pressure from the sides chasing a playoffs spot.
A number of the Manly players had been levelled with the flu during the week and they looked flat during the opening exchanges. Kiwis centre Steve Matai was a late scratching as a result of the illness while countryman Kieran Foran played through discomfort.
Back-to-back penalties put the home side hard on attack and a couple of classy passes inside put winger Akuila Uate in to open the scoring.
Manly set up camp in Newcastle territory for long spells of the first half but they couldn't find a way to breach the resolute Knights defence. Wayne Bennett-coached sides have always based their play around a strong defensive mindset and that has slowly started to develop the longer the season goes for the Knights. Manly's attack wasn't as crisp as it can be but they still threw plenty at the plucky Knights.
When the Knights got down to Manly's end of the field, they had more success however. Uate went close to scoring a second try before halfback Tyrone Roberts skipped over to ensure the home side took a 10-0 lead to the sheds at halftime.
Another sweeping backline play saw left winger James McManus score in the corner before centre Dane Gagai took the game out of reach of the Sea Eagles.
Jason King got Manly on the score sheet but late tries from McManus and Uate put the icing on the cake for the home side.
The result will worry Manly coach Geoff Toovey, especially as it comes on the back of a poor second half last week in their win over Parramatta, although they did enjoy a big lead at halftime in that match.
The Sea Eagles should be boosted by the return of NSW stars Brett and Glenn Stewart for next weekend's clash with the in-form Bulldogs.
The Knights will need to produce a similar performance against the Warriors in Auckland next week if they are to entertain thoughts of a late charge into the finals.
Knights 32 (J McManus 2, A Uate 2, T Roberts, D Gagai tries, T Roberts 4 goals) Sea Eagles 6 (B Kite try, J Lyon goal). Halftime: Knights 10-0.