The Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles have won their second consecutive victory with a 32-24 win over the Newcastle Knights at Lottoland.
Kelepi Manu was a late inclusion for the Sea Eagles and managed to score a hat-trick, while Cameron Cullen was at his explosive best, particularly in the second half.
David Bhana had to be stretchered off the field with an ugly hyperextension to his knee, while Tyler Cassell was sent off in the second half for dissent.
Blacktown may have scored six tries, but it was defence that won them the game, particularly as they played 38 minutes of the game with only 12 men on the field.
The Knights opened the scoring with a simple yet determined effort from Braden Robson, who charged onto a ball from his skipper, Will Pearsall, before throwing a dummy and muscling his way over the line.
The Wright’s combined to set up Blacktown’s opening try, with Matt shifting the to Jonathon, before the latter gave the ball to his winger, Manu, who dived over in the corner to reduce the deficit to two.
Newcastle kicked the ball off out on the full, and managed to hold out the Sea Eagles for consecutive sets on their line, but when they eventually got out of trouble, they made an error and handed Blacktown one too many chances. In a carbon copy of the previous try, a right-to-left shift saw Manu dive over in the left corner to take the lead.
While the previous two Sea Eagles’ tries were finesse, their third four-pointer was pure strength, with Jamil Hopoate powering his way through the Newcastle defence to score a strong try under the posts.
After a string of errors by Jaelen Feeney, he got his confidence back with a brilliant kick downfield and earned a repeat set through an error. However, the Blacktown defence stood up, turning the Knights away for three sets, with no better effort than a bell-ringer of a tackle by Shaun Lane to save a try.
The second half began horribly for Blacktown when Cassell made an error in the opening few seconds, putting the Knights straight onto the attack. Mickey Paea capitalised on the opportunity, bullying his way through the Sea Eagles’ defence to bring the scores back to 14-12.
Cassell got sent to the sin bin for dissent after the try, and was then sent from the field altogether for further taking his frustrations out on the referee after he was told to sit down for 10 minutes.
Alike the Sea Eagles, the Knights did not complete their opening set when Tyler Randell threw an intercept to Pita Godinet, who read the situation brilliantly, and raced away to kill any Newcastle momentum that they begun the half with.
Cullen injected himself into the match in spectacular fashion, selling a massive dummy to his right and bursting through the Knights’ line, before throwing a pass to Hopoate who then gave it off for Dean Parata to score next to the posts.
The game then had to be halted to allow Bhana to be stretchered off the field after his horrific leg injury, and it seemed to have an impact on the players as the points dried up for 10 minutes.
A dramatic switch and cut-out ball by Cullen allowed Jonathan Wright to quickly get the ball to Manu, who caught the ball behind him and athletically planted the ball down to score an amazing try which secured his hat-trick.
Newcastle were next to score with some fantastic second-phase play, finished with Pat Mata’utia dancing his way through the defence to reduce the deficit to 32-18, before Tom Hughes scored a consolation try on the stroke of full-time.