It is difficult to remember the last time McDonald Jones Stadium rocked like it did when the Knights launched the first kick-off deep into Rooster territory on Friday night.
After grappling with the Nathan Brown can’t coach/can coach conundrum for some years now, the Hunter appears to have concluded that indeed he can and that the visiting premiers were about to experience the wrath of Newcastle.
Boy, they weren’t wrong.
The Knights jumped the Roosters in the true sense of the word.
First half tries to Hymel Hunt, Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce took the home side to the sheds with a 22-6 lead. Only a 25th-minute try to James Tedesco bucked the trend.
The loss of Luke Keary to a head injury midway through the half did the Roosters no favours yet both before and after, Newcastle were the dominant force.
The Knights were frantic, intense and somewhat psychotic in their pressure. The Chooks were fragile and timid in comparison.
If anyone thought it was merely a first half burst of energy from the Novocastrians, they were to be proven well and truly incorrect.
The Knights extended their lead soon after the break with a try to Connor Watson in the 43rd minute.
A duo of penalty goals were split by the violent end to Ponga’s game when Jared Waerea-Hargreaves hit the young genius after he kicked. The Roosters’ hitman was late in his attack on Ponga, yet mystifying officialdom saw no infringement.
Someone might suggest to the referees that without the stars of the game, their jobs would be in jeopardy. Ponga deserves protection from a thug such as Waerea-Hargreaves.
The Knights led 32-6 after the dramatic hit on Ponga and an Edrick Lee try extended their lead soon after.
The Roosters managed a late morale boosting try yet the night ended with David Klemmer, after a cheeky infringement, marching to the sin bin with the raucous cheers of the crowd in his ears.
Nathan Brown can coach! Wow, who’d have thunk it. Oh, and by the way, Newcastle are well and truly in the eight!
In the earlier clash at Lottoland, the Sea Eagles sought their 7th win from 11 matches and the opportunity to continue the defiance of much pre-season doubt around their chances in 2019.
An under pressure Gold Coast side stood in their way and Garth Brennan had toes and fingers crossed in the hope that his team would finally play to their potential and reputations.
Things started poorly for Manly, with the Titans enjoying the best of the opening minutes. A risky flick pass saw momentum shift and Jorge Taufau opened the scoring in the corner after a penalty had gifted the Sea Eagles a repeat set.
The Titans knuckled down through the middle period of the first half and when AJ Brimson broke the line and seemed destined to score, Brendon Elliot made a superb try-saving tackle.
What followed was a joke. Elliot performed the most professional of professional fouls and conceded the penalty. Two very soft referees allowed him to stay on the field and the Titans’ momentum was halted.
Moments later the ball was spilled by the Gold Coast, as they raided the try line. Dylan Walker scooped up the dregs and sent Reuben Garrick into the clear to establish a 12-0 Sea Eagles’ lead, thanks to some rather weak officiating.
Frankly, I am getting sick of the inaction.
It went from bad to worse for the visitors soon after, as Walker broke the line. Despite his pass to Kane Elgey being ruled forward with the try line open, the signs indicated that Manly was taking a clear ascendancy.
Rather bravely, the Titans resisted and found a late try down the left edge to Dale Copley and another to Brimson in the 39th minute. The Sea Eagles lead 12-10 at half time.
Early in the second half the Titans found the line again when Tyrone Roberts scored after eight minutes and Lottoland stopped cheering and began grumbling. It was not the way the night was meant to unfold.
Copley scored again in the 56th minute. The conversion had the Titans comfortable at 20-12. Four minutes later, Copley was over for his third and the Titans had a 26-12 lead.
Brad Parker’s try in the 65th minute brought the Eagles closer, but always remember the Titans.
A try to Bryce Cartwright and Roberts’ second, built a 36-18 score line and a much needed win for the Gold Coast.
Dr Des will head back to the drawing board after one of Manly’s less enthusiastic performances in 2019. Newcastle will be cock-a-hoop and the Roosters will feel like feather dusters on Monday morning.