Manly play hard; Knights call an ambulance "Phil Gould" http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/manly-play-hard-knights-call-an-ambulance-20110327-1cbyw.html Manly play hard; Knights call an ambulance Phil Gould March 28, 2011 Locked up . . . Manly players block Knights prop Evarn Tuimavave at Brookvale yesterday. The aggressive Sea Eagles defence soon had Newcastle looking for soft options. Photo: Getty Images There was a lot to like, and dislike, about yesterday's clash between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Newcastle Knights. In a football sense, this game deteriorated in quality in the second half but I suggest there were mitigating circumstances. Serious injuries, fatigue, mistakes and lengthy stoppages interrupted the flow of the game, and in the end the players looked frustrated they couldn't get into a rhythm. Advertisement: Story continues below The Knights got the worst of the casualties - five-eighth Beau Henry with a suspected fractured leg and Ben Rogers with a dislocated shoulder. Both left Brookvale by ambulance. Shannon McDonnell and Richie Fa'aoso were severely concussed and will remember little of their afternoons. Cameron Ciraldo tore a pectoral muscle; such injuries are invariably season-ending. The Knights were left with no interchange players on the bench and several players on the field who would have been replaced in normal circumstances. Despite the adversity, the visitors battled on courageously and kept the score more than respectable. But that's about the only positive they can take away. Although little quality football was played, there were some significant observations one could draw from the match. Manly proved far too good, winning 26-12. They set up the victory with a stirring defensive assault on the Knights in the first 40 minutes. The Knights began with all the confidence and composure of an undefeated team. They opened the scoring with a neat try to back-rower Zeb Taia, and all looked good. For the next 30 minutes though, Manly unleashed a physical barrage on the Knights that changed the complexion of the contest. Last weekend, Manly wore down the Sydney Roosters. Judging by the repeat performance in the first half of this game, other sides should be aware that when you play the Sea Eagles this year, you are going to end up with a shirt full of sore ribs for your trouble. The Manly defensive line is quick off the mark and very aggressive. They hit in numbers, and they hit to hurt. They soon had the Knights heading sideways looking for softer options, and from this moment Manly had total control of proceedings. Manly converted this physical dominance into points with three tries, and the match was as good as over. Once Newcastle got into injury and interchange trouble in the second half, there was no real threat of a comeback. Manly obviously sensed they faced wounded opposition and virtually coasted their way to the finish line rather than ruthlessly compiling a big score. Normally, one would be critical of this lack of killer instinct but this was one of those days when their mediocrity could probably be forgiven. There was no continuity to the play, rhythm was lost; I think they just decided to wait for another day. Manly forwards Brent Kite, Jason King, Glenn Stewart and Anthony Watmough toiled away diligently. I am warming to new young halfback Daly Cherry-Evans. There is something about him. He moves nicely, has a decent pass to both sides of the field and possesses a calm demeanour that is treasured in a young playmaker. You already know my thoughts on five-eighth Kieran Foran. He didn't disappoint yesterday either. I was surprised he could even walk after his mighty defensive display last weekend. But the moment this game kicked off he was in there forcing his will on this match, he is so competitive. The shining light of the game was Manly centre Will Hopoate. This kid is special. He scored two tries that showed maturity and strength beyond his years. His ability to make defenders miss and his perfectly timed one-handed offloads depict a player of rare skill. Keep your eyes on this boy; he is the real deal. It was a dreary afternoon for the Newcastle side. Injuries apart, they really struggled in attack once confronted by a serious defensive line. Their first two wins of the season looked impressive but the Cowboys and Panthers probably don't provide a credible test of one's attacking abilities. Once the Manly side started to hit hard and rush their playmakers, the Knights struggled big time. Mind you, this reality will probably be swept aside by the more serious matter of trying to replace the wounded and get a fit team on the paddock for next week's round. In the end though, Manly did enough to suggest they are a quality side. I look forward to their battles with the better teams.