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Matai tackle angers coach as Manly lose

Des Hasler criticises his centre after his high shot on Michael Ennis, the Canterbury Bulldogs hooker, in their 30-24 defeat at Brookvale Oval.

Des Hasler, the Manly Sea Eagles coach, criticised Steve Matai, his team's centre, after the New Zealand international's high shot on Michael Ennis, the Canterbury Bulldogs hooker, in yesterday's 30-24 defeat at Brookvale Oval. Ennis had to be helped off the field in the 50th minute following the bone-shuddering high shot off the ball from Matai, before returning for the final 10 minutes to guide the Bulldogs to a shock win in front of a crowd of 15,933.

Matai has a poor disciplinary record and had already served a three-game ban this season for a similar offence against Parramatta's Jarryd Hayne in round 10 and looks almost certain to spend more time on the sidelines when the match review committee assess the incident today. "It didn't look good from the first angle I saw it, I don't think his carryovers are all that good so it doesn't look good," Hasler said.

Canterbury gave the South Sydney Rabbitohs a golden chance to sneak into the NRL top eight but they were not good enough to take it and were beaten 38-24 by the St George Illawarra Dragons yesterday. The Bulldogs' earlier win over Manly meant Souths could have made a last-gasp hop into the finals if they toppled the Dragons by five points or more in the last match of the regular season. In the Super League, Justin Morgan, the Hull KR coach, is convinced new signing Willie Mason's bark is worse than his bite.

Morgan secured the colourful 30-year-old Australian prop on a two-year deal yesterday, in one of the most eye-catching signings in the history of Super League. Mason has earned a notorious reputation but Morgan, who has known him for more than a decade, believes this has been exaggerated and that when the forward arrives from North Queensland in the winter, he will have landed himself a stellar player.

"I've known Willie for a long time, right back to when he started out at Canterbury," Morgan said. "I know that a lot of flack has fallen at his doorstep throughout his career but a lot of that gets taken out of proportion. "This is a guy who has played a number of years in the NRL, played State of Origin and played for Australia. You don't do that if you're not a serious player." Mason will arrive at Craven Park as an NRL winner with Canterbury in 2004, joining fellow title winners Clint Newton (Melbourne) and Ben Galea (Wests) in Morgan's squad.

In last night's game, Salford CityReds beat Wakefield Wildcats 16-12. * Agencies