Fonua-Blake then audibly called Atkins a ‘f—ing retard’, which saw the referee send him from the field.
He will almost certainly be charged with contrary conduct. Whether the charge is grade one, two or three will determine whether he spends as many as three weeks on the sideline.
The Sea Eagles enforced approached Atkins to apologise post match and later issued a statement through the club.
“Referees have a very tough job and we all need to respect their decisions even when we may not agree with them,” Fonua-Blake said. “I should not have let my emotions get the better of me and I am very sorry for the comments I made.
“I’d also like to offer my sincere apology to anyone offended by the regrettable language that I used. I let myself and my club down. That is not who I am or what this club stands for.”
Manly coach Des Hasler said his star enforcer was “emotional” when asked about the incident.
“Obviously he sent Addin off so we need to have a look at that. From Addin’s point of view there was emotion, frustration but you have to contain that,” Hasler said. “We will have to wait and see what the charge is and what the fall-out is.”
Amid the remarkable scenes, there was also concern for Knights superstar Kalyn Ponga.
Ponga fell both awkwardly and heavily after soaring above the turf for a kick contest with Manly hooker Danny Levi late in the second half.
He gingerly walked from the field with the match precariously poised at 14-12 in the Knights’ favour for a head-injury assessment and Newcastle were able to survive some very nervous moments – including that last play of the game – to hang on and surge into the top four.
The Newcastle of last season would have rolled over as Manly applied the blowtorch to their goal-line defence in the second half.
But without the strike force of Tom Trbojevic, Des Hasler’s side simply could not crack a resolute Newcastle defence, which could not have been in starker contrast to the terrible showing which allowed 32 points to the lowly Cowboys last Saturday.
It’s often a cliche to describe a match as a game of two halves but that’s not the case when describing this contest. The Knights went into the half time break leading 14-6 after one strange half of football.
Two statistics effectively portray the way the first half played out. In 40 minutes Newcastle completed 19 of 21 sets; Manly completed 12 of their 16.
The Knights had spent more than 15 of the first 40 minutes camped inside the Sea Eagles’ 20. But the Manly side which allowed Cronulla to put 40 points on them this time last week was no where to be seen.
The dam wall did break twice when McCullough snuck over from dummy half and Kurt Mann plucked a perfect Mitchell Pearce chip out of Cherry-Evans’ hands but the home side really should have been much further behind than 14-6 at the break.
Cherry-Evans had spent 10 minutes in the sin bin after he impeded Lachlan Fitzgibbon as the Knights forward chased a Pearce grubber, but he was the reason the Sea Eagles had any points to show for the first 40 minutes.
The Manly skipper weaved his way through some lazy Knights defence to score in the 21st minute. But outside of Cherry-Evans’ brilliance, Manly were largely dreadful with ball in hand in the first half.
Lachlan Croker and Cade Cust seriously struggled in the first half. Croker produced two awful knock ons in the first half and when Cust had to pass to an unmarked Jorge Taufua to put the left winger in, he almost sent the ball onto the famous Brookvale Oval hill.
Cust made amends for his poor pass with a critical try with 13 minutes to play in the second half.
But the Sea Eagles could not find the final try to go in front for the first and only time in the match, despite the late game controversy.
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.