Carl Manu signs off with match-winning show: NHRU

NHRU: Waratahs snatch win with late penalty, photos
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TAKE THAT: Carl Manu, second Waratah from right, celebrates a try with his teammates. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

WARATAHS go-to man Carl Manu was desperate to leave an impression.

He did that and some.

The electrifying utility back scored two tries, one either side of half-time, to help haul the Tahs off the canvas and stretch the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union premiers’ winning streak to seven games with a 21-18 win over Merewether at Townson Oval on Saturday.

Manu flies to Belgium today to play for Dendermonde in the Flanders Open Rugby 10s, the biggest tournament of its kind in Europe.

The former fringe Super rugby centre, who spent several seasons playing professionally in Italy, will be gone for a fortnight and miss the grand final replay against Hamilton on June 14. There is a general bye next weekend.

That wasn’t the only motivation.

Hayden Pedersen’s wife, Lisa, gave birth to a son, Kyder, early Saturday morning and handed the coaching reins to close friend Manu.

‘‘I really wanted to go away with a win,’’ Manu said.

‘‘Hayden rang me with the good news about his little boy and gave me some instructions. I just wanted to make sure we got the win.’’

Adrian Curry may have landed a late penalty to secure the victory, but it was Manu who sparked the visitors to life.

Merewether were in control, leading 15-0 with two minutes until half-time.

They were the aggressor at the breakdown, had continually turned the Tahs around with a pin-point kicking game and then feasted on their lineout. At one point Shaun Rich picked off six straight against the throw.

Then, through two lapses, the game was transformed.

The Greens got lazy on a kick chase. Tahs Winger Alex Robson made a bust and linked with Jono Reynolds, who turned the ball inside for Manu to produce some neat footwork and touch down.

‘‘The effort was there and we executed everything perfectly bar the final two plays of the first half,’’ Merewether coach Michael Dan said.

Manu’s second try a minute after the break was just as easy. From the kick-off, fullback Tim Riley burst down the short side and found Manu, who outpaced the cover.

From there the premiers found a way to win.

Lifted by half-time replacements Loni Vikilani (hooker) and Aaron Doigne (prop) , they pressured a Greens outfit decimated by injury and forced them into error.

Already without Jayden Hetherington, Mac Rae, Adam Nolan, Pat Ireland and Lewie Dunn, they lost seven players including strike men Jay Strachan and Aiden Kelso.

‘‘The guys who came on did well, but any game where there is seven changes, you lose a bit of cohesion,’’ Dan said.

The Tahs’ issues were of their own making.

Manu and Riley were sent to the sin bin, leaving the visitors with 14 men for 20 of the final 23 minutes. Manu was given a yellow after he collared Gill from behind deep in the Tahs’ territory following an intercept.

After receiving treatment for the high shot, the hooker appeared OK before taking a couple of steps and collapsing.

Play was held up for 10 minutes before he was taken off on a stretcher. Gill was taken to hospital by ambulance and later cleared of serious injury.

Dan, who is a doctor and attended to Gill before the ambulance arrived, said he would study a replay of the incident before deciding whether to forward it to the citing commissioner.

Manu admitted that frustration had got the better of him but believed the matter had been dealt with on the field.

Ed Bacigalupo converted the ensuing penalty to stretch the lead to 18-10.

The Tahs, despite a man down, hit back through prop Alain Miriallakis, who burrowed over from close range after eight phases on the Greens tryline.

Curry missed the conversion but added a penalty to level. The Kiwi had a long-range penalty attempt fall short before producing the match winner at the death.

● NSW Country produced their best performance of the representative campaign to steamroll Australian Services 48-21 at Rugby Park, Singleton, on Saturday.