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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Max McKinney

Second-half collapse a worrying season trend for struggling Knights

TRIED HARD: Newcastle Knights skipper Kalyn Ponga takes a run at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night. The fullback scored his side's second try to reduce the deficit to 14-12 early in the second half but couldn't inspire a further comeback. Picture: Getty Images

Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien lamented another fresh string of injuries, labelling it one reason for his side's 42-12 loss to Manly, but after conceding five tries in the second half he admitted there was "some stuff there we have to own".

The Knights lost winger Dom Young at hafltime and back-rower Tyson Frizell shortly after, in addition to having five-eighth Anthony Milford sin-binned less than a minute before break, and while they scored first in the second half to trail 14-12 they couldn't contain a rampant Manly on their home turf.

The Sea Eagles powered through the Knights in the second 40 minutes, scoring five tries to claim a comprehensive victory in front of 15,896 fans at Brookvale Oval.

The second-half onslaught mirrored some of Newcastle's other games this season. O'Brien's team has developed somewhat of a trend of collapsing late in the contest.

Across 17 matches, the Knights have conceded (262) almost double the amount of points they have scored (134) in second halves this year.

"There's some stuff there that we have to own," O'Brien said. "There's some guys that stopped, and unfortunately we need to eradicate that.

CELEBRATION: Manly back-rower Andrew Davey after scoring a try. Picture: AAP

"We need everybody encouraging people to keep moving on those plays. That's the stuff we will address."

O'Brien described the game as a "weird one to dissect" but found positives.

"There's so much there to build on, so much more than last week, but there will be some disappointing stuff to look at," he said. "We lost three key players and had a man in the bin, so we had a fair bit to contend with. There's a bit of an out there."

Fielding their strongest forward-pack this season and with their three Origin players all backing up, Newcastle started the game well and almost scored in the opening minutes but winger Edrick Lee got held up.

Manly took advantage of a Newcastle error and then a last-tackle penalty to post the first points with right centre Tolutau Koula beating Enari Tuala with a skip and step to cross after 11 minutes.

The Knights hit back a few minutes later after Young made a break down the right flank and kicked infield for halfback Adam Clune.

TOUGH NIGHT: Knights prop Jacob Saifiti gets tackled by Dylan Walker. Picture: AAP

They held a 6-4 lead for almost 20 minutes until Manly made a break down the left edge and winger Jason Saab scored his side's second.

Milford, playing his 200th game, got sin-binned for holding fullback Reuben Garrick back as Manly made a similar break a few minutes later.

Four minutes into the second half, Kalyn Ponga put Lachlan Fitzgibbon in a gap near halfway and then backed up to run onto a pass from Tuala to reduce the deficit to two points.

But Saab scored his second five minutes after and from then on it was all the home side.

"I think we just ran out of puff," Knights prop Jacob Saifiti said.

"You've got to give them credit, they were pretty clinical at the back end.

"We knew we were in for a dogfight, I thought we were going pretty good in the first half. There was a lot of ding-dongs and ball in play.

"They just got it over us in the end."

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