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Roosters playmaker Joseph Manu has been condemned by NRL fans after a questionable play against the Dragons that some have labelled "shameful" and "unsportsmanlike".
Manu put on an astonishing individual performance to inspire the Roosters to a fast-finishing 54-26 win over St George Illawarra that snapped a four-game losing streak while keeping their NRL finals hopes alive.
The victory in Gosford came at heavy cost for the Tri-Colours though, with Billy Smith (ACL), Sitili Tupouniua (ACL) and Siosiua Taukeiaho (cheekbone) all going down with serious injuries.
With Luke Keary still missing through concussion, Manu shifted to five-eighth for just the fourth time in his career and grabbed the headlines with an extraordinary display that included two tries and a pair of try assists.
However, it was one of those four-pointers Manu set up for Paul Momirovski that divided NRL fans, after the playmaker appeared to fake an injury in the build-up.
Manu raced back to pick up a loose pass before almost coming to a stop as he grabbed at his leg as if to indicate he was suffering from an injury.
Before the Dragons' defence knew it, Manu took off and raced through a gap between Blake Lawrie and Billy Burns, before putting in a kick for Momirovski to touch down for a try.
“Oh no the knee, wait, Manu, well what’s he done there? He’s sold the dummy with a knee injury, it’s a fake knee injury that has set up a try for Momirovski,” commentator Andrew Voss said on Fox League.
“We’ve all come to a stop, the doctor’s almost out there and Manu has taken off to set up the try.
“What a beauty, Manu the cramp, the fibber, then takes off to set up the try.”
— Rugby League Best Tries Hits and Biffs (@NBiffs) July 16, 2022
Co-commentator Shane Flanagan was willing to give Manu the benefit of the doubt, suggesting he may have pushed through the pain barrier, rather than bunging on an injury.
“I don’t know if it’s a fake injury, I think he got a cramp, he saw the space open and said ‘I have to take it, whether I’ve got a cramp or not’,” Flanagan said.
“Feels a cramp coming on in the back of his calf and then just takes off.”
Manu revealed after the match that he did indeed have a pre-existing injury but admitted he put on a bit of an act before setting up the try.
“My calf has been a bit tight for the last few weeks, but it was just a bit of carry on too,” Manu said.
Some fans hailed Manu for the stunning act of deception, while others insisted it was poor sportsmanship from the Roosters star.
Yeah after watching it a few times Joey Manu definitely faked that injury. He was looking for a gap the entire time. It’s wildly against the spirit of the game. Nothing to be proud of there.
— Rugby League God (@RugbyLeagueGod) July 16, 2022
I love Joey Manu, but I have to agree with this take. Most NRL fans love him, so they had a chuckle at this. If it was Latrell or Luai, there would be so much negative chatter and talk about disrespecting the game.
— Dan Amosa (@AmosaDan) July 16, 2022
Joey Manu should be penalised for faking injury! Shameful conduct bringing the game into disrepute 🤬
— Alexander Rheeney (@ARheeney) July 16, 2022
That’s terrible from Manu…. Disgraceful sportsmanship #NRLRoostersDragons
— Jake Carden (@JakeCarden13) July 16, 2022
Joey Manu masterclass inspires Roosters
Manu first barged through the middle of the park and flicked the ball away to Victor Radley, who opened the Roosters' account against the run of play.
Five minutes later, Manu forced a drop-out with a kick to the in-goal area, and made the most of the ensuing field position by barging over from dummy-half.
In the first half, Manu's efforts were matched by Dragons captain Ben Hunt.
Hunt brought his State of Origin heroics to the Central Coast, spinning out of the Roosters' goal-line defence for the Dragons' first try and then landing an inch-perfect 40/20 kick to lay the groundwork for their second.
The Roosters' hopes of working back into the game were dealt a blow when Smith did his knee, forcing Manu to shift between the halves and the outside backline.
The tight contest threatened to swing in the Tricolours' favour when Dragons prop Aaron Woods was sin-binned for taking Sam Walker off the ball as he kicked from close range early in the second half.
The Dragons scored first while they were a man down but Manu's second try from dummy-half was the impetus for a five-minute surge that produced two more tries for the Roosters and ultimately sealed the win.
The floodgates opened with the Dragons defence capitulating once the Roosters found their rhythm.
Playing back at five-eighth, Manu set up the Roosters' eighth try up with a kick for Paul Momirovski and earned a well-deserved early mark.
"I'm really lucky to coach guys like 'Teddy' (fullback James Tedesco) and Joey," said Roosters coach Trent Robinson.
"You don't have to coach them much at all. They know the game better than you. You have to create an environment so they can perform, that'll all our job is."
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