It would have been easy for Newcastle coach Nathan Brown to blame bad luck or some questionable calls from the bunker for his team’s 26-10 loss to Manly at Hunter Stadium on Anzac Day.
Knights wingers Nathan Ross and Akuila Uate were sure they had scored in the first half, only for review official Ashley Klein to overturn referee Gavin Badger’s call of a try on both occasions.
Klein then rubber-stamped Badger’s ruling of a try for Manly prop Brenton Lawrence in the final seconds of the first half, giving Manly a 10-6 lead at the break and increasing Brown’s frustration.
Having already lost returning centre Peter Matautia to a knee injury in the 26th minute, playmaker Jarrod Mullen tore his hamstring in the 67th minute.
Mullen pulled up sharply after making a break which looked like leading to a Trent Hodkinson try that would have eaten into Manly’s 20-10 lead.
Brown was pleased with the effort and intensity the Knights demonstrated after being routed 53-0 by the Broncos in Brisbane nine days earlier, but believed they paid for some poor decisions with the ball in the first half, and a 15-minute period of Manly dominance in the second half.
“There’s all numbers of things we could look at that were unfortunate, and losing players for our young squad puts a lot of pressure on a lot of people who are just learning the game,” Brown said.
“But at the end of the day, the biggest thing we’ve got to worry about at this stage of our development is what we can do to control our own destiny and we’ve got to look at the things we can control better.
“As a younger side, if we do turn the ball over a bit too much and we don’t finish our sets well, it chews a lot of juice out of a heap of guys who are actually learning to play first-grade footy.”