WILLIE Mason vehemently denied illegal high tackles had been responsible for two of the three injuries which ruined Gold Coast’s hopes of beating Newcastle at Skilled Park.
Titans centre Luke O’Dwyer suffered a broken jaw, lock Ashley Harrison copped knee and ankle injuries and hooker Matt Srama was left with a bone protruding from a broken finger in the first 12 minutes, leaving John Cartwright’s side with one reserve and consigning them to a 30-6 defeat.
Coach Cartwright said O’Dwyer had been caught high and Harrison – whose Origin involvement is now in doubt – had fallen awkwardly because he had been concussed.
“Those tackles were within the rules of the league,” Mason, who along with prop Kade Snowden was in the hit on O’Dwyer, told Fairfax Media.
“It was a very aggressive start. Our line speed was something we worked on during the week and it was just line speed into contact.
“It was a shame that Ashley Harrison did syndesmosis. I thought he just did his medial. It’s just the way the tackle happened. It was just a very aggressive tackle, in both cases.
“I don’t think anyone will have anything to answer for. The refs saw the replays. They didn’t think anything of it.” “
The Harrison tackle involved Snowden, Travis Waddell and Alex McKinnon, with Waddell up high. Mason said Harrison was not knocked out or dazed because he responded to a question while laying on the ground.
“I said ‘are you sweet?’ and he said ‘yeah, I’m fine’ but his leg was stuffed.”
“O’Dwyer, he just got hit hard. You play this game, you hit hard and you get hit hard and sometimes things happen.”
Harrison hobbled off after a stretcher had been called, O’Dwyer calmly played the ball and then told a trainer he had broken his jaw while reserve hooker Beau Falloon – just back from appendicitis – recalled: “I saw Srama come to the sideline with the bone sticking out so I knew I was going to be playing a fair few minutes.”
Cartwright said: “(O’Dwyer) and Harro’ both got hit, they both got up holding their heads.
“Both were groggy and they were the tackles they got injured in. Both those boys don’t lie down.
“(Harrison) lost his bearings and he just twisted. If you’ve been knocked out, you know what I mean – knee buckled, ankle buckled and rolled ‘em both.
“There’s a lot of experience (O’Dwyer), a playmaker (Srama) and a bloke who plays 80 minutes every week (Harrison). It’ll leave a little hole in us.
“I’m anxious to see how long they’re all going to be (out).”
At the time of the mishaps the scores were 0-0. The Knights posted a spectacular try five minutes before halftime when Dane Gagai took an intercept 60 metres out and found Jarrod Mullen who bounced out of Greg Bird’s tackle before Darius Boyd put Timana Tahu over.
Replacement David Fa’alogo scored off Jarrod Mullen’s kick shortly after halftime, before Albert Kelly posted a sizzling try off William Zillman’s pass in the 48th minute.
But fatigue finally told on the Titans, and the Knights coasted to their first away win of the year with touchdowns to wingers James McManus (59th and 64th minutes) and Akuila Uate.
“First half, 10 minutes in, I looked up and we were three players down,” Bird said. “It all happened so quick and no-one out on the field knew what had happened.”
Knights captain Kurt Gidley described the win as Newcastle’s most satisfying of the year and that his troublesome back had come through well.
“I haven’t had a lot of confidence this year,” he said. “It definitely would have been a pretty big talking point if we got beat today.”
Coach Wayne Bennett concluded: “We just haven’t got everybody on the bus at the moment in ter terms of playing consistently well. Today was a great start.”
NEWCASTLE 30 (J McManus 2 T Tahu D Fa’alogo A Uate tries K Gidley 5 goals) bt GOLD COAST 6 (A Kelly try A Sezer goal) at Skilled Park. Referees: J Maxwell/L Phillips. Crowd: 14,201.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD