Crikey Sports introduces Pat Byrne, project manager and sports fan who, in conjunction with Crikey Sports, will be publishing a weekly column where he thinks outside the square in bringing you the game of the week as he sees it … in a box…

Pat Byrne, blogger and “Game-in-a-box” creator writes:

This was promising to be a good game. Both the Newcastle Knights and the Manly Sea Eagles were coming off good wins last round and both with powerful displays. I thought it was going to be a bit of a “smash-em-up” kind of game and relatively close.

There was also the return of Brett Stewart to his home ground for the first time in a long while but I was never sure why this was such a big issue in the sports media, other than he is sometimes a big influence when on song. The Knights also were going into the game without their inspirational captain and fullback, Kurt Gidley.

(Click the image for a larger version)

The game started at a pretty ordinary tempo with the only really interesting bit being a break by Wes Naiqama — during which his shorts got ripped off! I used to wear speedos under my footy shorts, so I guess the players are glad the old budgie smugglers are no longer de rigueur for footballers these days!

The Knights started well and finished well, but that was it for them. The Sea Eagles dominated this game, particularly during the second half. Any team that gets near 20% dominance, generally wins and the Sea Eagles did that in both halves for a 24% dominance overall.  This was no more exemplified than when, in the 30th minute with the Knights on the attack, the Sea Eagles intercepted the Knights ball and ran down field. They dropped the ball just before the right corner unfortunately. No try and the Knights get the ball back. But the Sea Eagles then followed that up with VERY aggressive gang tackling keeping the Knights inside their own quarter. Unfortunately again, they went too far and the Knights got a penalty to help them out of their half.

Indeed, even when the game was a dragging on in the second half, the Sea Eagles still kept well on top of the Knights, some of that due to the Knights own poor handling. Here was a classic “lazy” penalty being given away. After the Sea Eagles try in the 43rd minute, the Knights kicked off only to concede a penalty because one of them was in front of the kicker when he kicked the ball. This put the Sea Eagles on attack but at least this time, the Knights didn’t pay as the Sea Eagles dropped the ball.

All part of that messy, lethargic and injury plagued section of play between the Sea Eagles fourth try and the Knights second, but too late, try. Keeping behind the kicker in the kick-off is an easy thing to avoid so I don’t know why they do it. The same goes for the goal line drop out. There were a few incidents last round where the kicker kicked in front of the line not behind it as required. A lazy approach to a pretty simple rule.

There was also an awful period there between the 51st minute and 55th minute when the Knights’ number 16, Richard Fa’aoso, was dreadfully concussed. Although they wanted to bring him off (not that he wanted to initially anyway), they weren’t able to as there was to be a scrum packed and replacements aren’t allowed during this period. That happened twice to the poor bloke! Surely the referees are allowed to show some common sense, but apparently not judging by this incident. To be fair I can see where this might lead to sham injuries causing a disruption and advantage.

Although the second half was a bit of slug and mistake fest, I thought it was going to liven up late after the Knights scored their second try in the 72nd minute because they were eight points behind and another try would have made it very very interesting. But it wasn’t to be. The Sea Eagles wrapped it up well and truly when Oldfield broke away and kicked in field to the flying David Williams who was signalling for the inside kick. Williams got the ball a long way out from the line but he was in the clear and he went in under the post. There was no way back for the Knights at all.

There was also no turning point in this game. The Sea Eagles dominated for a very long period and basically had it won by half time. If the Knights had come out with some big energy in the second half it might have been different, but that didn’t happen. I’m not sure what happened though. Both teams had a full week to recover but they both seemed to lose energy in the second half although the Sea Eagles kept sufficient to stay on top.

Brett Stewart didn’t do too badly. Anthony Watmough had his usual strong game for the Sea Eagles as did Akuila Uate for the Knights. Geez he must be hard to put down — low to the ground and powerful down low and on top.

Five tries to two was a good reflection eventually.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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