Hopoate steps up as Sea Eagles soar
MANLY young gun Will Hopoate made a strong case for holding a permanent spot in the centres with a dominant performance in the Sea Eagles’ 26-12 NRL win over Newcastle yesterday.
All eyes were on Brett Stewart in his return to Brookvale, and while he had a hand in a couple of tries, the talk of the ground quickly became the Knights’ courage under fire.
Newcastle were left with no players on the bench for the final 20 minutes and suffered five serious injuries, with five-eighth Beau Henry ( broken ankle) the worst of them.
For Manly it was their second-straight win, but it’s clear there’s plenty of work to be done as they struggled to put away an ill-disciplined Knights who were out on their feet.
Hopoate, 19, was the highlight for Manly.
He showed incredible strength in bagging a double and made an argument for why he could potentially keep a Test international out of the centres when Manly’s three-quarter line welcomes back their full complement of players.
New Zealand representative Steve Matai will return from suspension in round five, while co-captain Jamie Lyon is also expected back then from his hamstring injury.
Hopoate’s performances over the past two weeks indicate coach Des Hasler will need to find a permanent place for him in the backline and the off-contract rookie is building a compelling case for being kept as a weapon at centre.
‘ ‘ He’s been tremendous. He’s a confident young kid,’’ Hasler said.
‘‘ He’s really stepping up – two weeks in a row he’s come up with important tries for us. He just continues to grow.’’
The humble ’ Hoppa Jr’ refused to credit anything but luck for the hulk - like strength he showed in fighting off four defenders for his first try, but the Sea Eagles will be quickly looking to tie up his talents on a new deal.
‘‘ I think I was just a bit l ucky t here, one of t he Newcastle boys turned me over, so thanks to them,’’ Hopoate said.
Shannon McDonnell and Richard Fa’aoso (con - cussion) , Ben Rogers ( shoulder, six weeks) and Cameron Ciraldo ( pectoral, six-eight weeks) were the Knights’ other injuries.
They’re hopeful Henry’s ankle injury isn’t seasonending. Ciraldo and Fa’aoso played on injured for significant periods in the second half.
Knights coach Rick Stone was left frustrated by four differential penalties from scrums, including one for halfback Jarrod Mullen feeding the scrum through the second row – a rule which hasn’t been enforced in decades.
Stone and Mullen said the referees’ new crackdown on scrums was unnecessary.
‘‘ It’s a tough penalty. I saw Kieran Foran do it twice after me and he didn’t penalise them,’’ Mullen said.
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