Players will head into State of Origin with no idea what constitutes a penalty, sin bin or send off after another day of confusion over the NRL’s crackdown on high contact, as Tyson Frizell limped off after he became the latest Blues player to be placed on report.
The NSW veteran was cautioned in the second half for a high shot on Martin Taupau that initially went unnoticed by the on-field officials, but the force and direct contact means he will most likely be charged.
He can escape with a fine if it’s only a grade one, but anything more than that would see him facing a ban that would rub him out of the series opener, although none of that will matter if he succumbs to an ankle injury that saw him limp off late.
The simmering tension between the stars of the game and those at head office will only intensify as Knights fans erupted over a couple of tackles in the space of two minutes that they thought should have been dealt with more harshly.
In bizarre circumstances in the first half, fill-in five-eighth Tevita Funa went up to contest a Daly Cherry-Evans bomb but ended up catching Starford To’a flush around the jaw after he took his eyes off the ball.
Under the crackdown, the Sea Eagles youngster should have been sent to the sin bin, but referee Ben Cummins put him on report instead, prompting Andrew Voss to say “RIP to the crackdown” in commentary.
Barely two minutes later, Sea Eagles back-rower Sean Keppie belted Phoenix Crossland high and late after the Knights halfback had kicked the ball. He was marched for 10 minutes, but Andrew Johns said he was lucky not to be sent off.
The drama continued in the second half when Taupau was sensationally sin binned for a tackle on Daniel Saifiti which was initially missed by the referees but was penalised after the Bunker brought play back to the other end of the field.
The contact was incidental and did no damage, and it highlighted the gross inconsistencies that are plaguing a game that is supposedly being treated in black and white terms but is 50 shades of grey right now.
Manly led early before Newcastle came to the party late in the first half. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
It looked like the Knights were headed for another loss after they failed to take advantage of a strong breeze at their backs in the first half.
The hosts dropped the ball three times in the first eight minutes, while their fifth mistake led to a Jason Saab runaway try to make it 10-0 before they fought back to lead 12-10 at the break.
In all, the Knights had 24 tackles in the opposition 20-metre zone in the first half while the Sea Eagles had just two, but the hosts held firm and defended bravely to collect two crucial points without Kalyn Ponga.
Manly’s three-game winning streak is over but they won’t have lost too many admirers after they twice had to defend with 12 men on a day that saw them lose the penalty count 9-1.
In fact, the Sea Eagles were only awarded one set restart all afternoon even though the Knights were far from perfect in the ruck.
Manly were always up against it when Josh Schuster (calf) and Cade Cust (hamstring) were ruled out before kick-off, forcing Tevita Funa to play in the halves.
Their cause wasn’t helped when Zac Saddler came off with a suspected facial fracture early in the second half.
It was meant to be the day we celebrated three Trbojevic brothers playing together for the first time, but Ben’s debut only lasted a minute after he came on at the death and was collected high by David Klemmer, who was sent to the sin bin.
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