Knights v Sea Eagles: Five key points
Manly secured the chocolates in a 26-10 win over the Knights on Anzac Day in Daly Cherry-Evans' return from injury but it came at a cost of four more injured players across both teams.
Peter Mata'utia – not even half hour into his Knights return – was the first to go down. Signed from the Dragons on Wednesday, the oldest of Newcastle's most famous set of brothers since the Johns boys was left with an apparent medial ligament injury.
Sea Eagles fullback Brett Stewart failed to return after half-time thanks to a hamstring injury while positional replacement Tom Trbojevic limped off with a syndesmosis injury around half hour later.
Jarrod Mullen tore his hamstring as he made a long-winding break down field – just before Trbojevic was carried off himself – and it's likely to be the most serious of them all, in another cruel chapter to the veteran five-eighth's career.
"Tom has a high-ankle sprain which is what he's had problems with before so he's probably of the most concern for us," Manly coach Trent Barrett said. "We don't have a long turnaround either and it's looking like a couple of weeks so for Stewart too he's probably no hope."
Newcastle counterpart Nathan Brown added: "Peter's done his MCL I think they might have said, so he's going to have a good six or eight weeks. Mullo's hammy – when you do them like that, and they pop – she's going to be long-term too, yeah."
Newcastle disallowed – twice
The bunker didn't make any friends in Newcastle on Anzac Day. While it's probably fair to say the majority of the crowd was watching the game through blue-and-red eyes, their team's two early disallowed efforts had a massive effect on the final result.
Nathan Ross's shout in the 14th minute was one that could have gone either way. Looking to touch down in the corner, the Newcastle winger's hand was ruled to have just come away from the ball as it hit the ground.
Three minutes later Akuila Uate was disallowed in similar circumstances. If things had gone Newcastle's way, they'd be up at least 8-2 midway through the first half.
Tariq Sims was also denied in the 50th minute but nobody could complain about Danny Levi's knock-on in the lead up.
Daly Cherry-Evans returns
Perhaps unexpectedly, Cherry-Evans threw on the No.19 jumper and returned for the Sea Eagles on Monday.
It offset the loss of Manly hooker Matt Parcell – who was ruled out late with a hamstring injury – as it allowed Apisai Koroisau to shift from a playmaker role to play dummy half.
Parcell's return is crucial to Barrett next Saturday against the Cowboys especially with Dylan Walker likely to don the No.1 jumper with Stewart and Trbojevic gone.
"[Cherry-Evans] got through unscathed which is good. He was able to blow a few cobwebs out and it's good to have back," Barrett said.
"Matt Parcell almost made the game too so I'm banking on him being right for next week and we'll see what sort of side we can come up with. I have a few options. Dylan Walker's played there before and Matty Wright is arriving on Monday which is timely."
Sea Eagles forward Nate Myles added: "Daly adds a whole other side to us really. I don't think he was anywhere near as good as he can be but the two points was the focus and we got them."
Windy conditions dictate proceedings
The Sea Eagles were up 10-4 at half-time. This, despite running into a heavy wind for the first 40, was a telling sign of how the rest of the game panned out.
Two Jamie Lyon penalty goals and a converted Brenton Lawrence try was the impetus behind Manly's first-half performance – even with Steve Matai sin-binned halfway through – and it made all the difference 40 minutes later.
It was all uphill for the Knights from the moment Lawrence crashed over in the 39th minute. By game's end it was a summit they couldn't quite reach.
"It was a war of attrition in the end. In terms of effort from both sides it was a contest and two points in Newcastle are always hard to get so I'm really happy to come away with the win," Barrett said.
"The first half was tough. We kicked two goals and had Steve Matai in the sin bin so it was a pretty good defensive effort I thought to keep them to one try in the first half."
Knights' form not putting off Novocastrians
The Knights are on the bottom few rungs of the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder but it's certainly not scaring their fans off.
A total of 21,653 punters rocked up two weeks ago to see the Knights secure their first win of the 2016 season over the Wests Tigers.
Hunter Stadium – Anzac Day's newest addition – hosted 19,072 for this one against Manly. Amazing stuff from the locals considering just nine days ago their team was flogged 53-0 in Brisbane.