A Daly Cherry-Evans field goal with just three seconds on the clock has left the Newcastle Knights heartbroken in a thrilling 15-14 loss against the Manly Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval on Monday night.
The Knights led 6-0 at halftime and 14-4 with just 14 minutes remaining, but the Sea Eagles surged home with two late tries and an amazing field goal from Cherry-Evans to seal the win.
While Newcastle didn't get the result, they must be commended for their effort in a match that will go down as their most courageous performance this season.
Winger Aku Uate was a star for the Knights with two tries, while centre Dane Gagai was also strong. The one-point loss leaves Newcastle stranded in 15th position on the NRL ladder after 10 rounds.
The Knights now have the bye, before taking on the Warriors in New Zealand in Round 12.
Newcastle made a number of forced changes prior to kick-off.
Winger James McManus moved to left centre to replace Joey Leilua (hamstring), while Jake Mamo comes into the team on the wing. Korbin Sims started in the second-row to replace Beau Scott (abdominal).
The Knights received the first attacking opportunity after just five minutes following a Manly mistake.
Centre Dane Gagai looked to be in open space with the try line looming, but couldn’t hold the ball.
It was a mistake-marred opening to the match with both sides struggling to build momentum on the back of errors.
This changed in the 15th minute following a determined try to winger Aku Uate.
The flying Fijian beat three Sea Eagles defenders to barge over in the southern corner.
Skipper Kurt Gidley converted from the sideline to give the Knights an early 6-0 lead.
Manly looked over the line just four minutes later, but back-rower Justin Horo threw a wayward pass that went to ground.
The Sea Eagles had a number of chances to score throughout the first half, however the Knights’ defence held strong.
Newcastle was rewarded for their resilient defence after 33 minutes when Uate forced a line dropout from a Jarrod Mullen kick.
The Knights couldn’t convert though following a misguided Gidley kick that went straight to a Sea Eagles player.
Manly kept coming at Newcastle, but couldn’t crack their defensive line in a closely fought first half.
On the back of their effort in defence, the Knights went to the halftime break with a slender 6-0 lead.
Newcastle received a golden opportunity just two minutes into the second half following a Daly Cherry-Evans mistake.
The Knights went on attack from 20 metres out, but the Sea Eagles' defence held on.
Cherry-Evans' night then went from bad to worse when he kicked the ball out on the full.
Newcastle had an invaluable chance to extend their lead after forcing another line dropout, but couldn't convert following a fumble over the sideline.
The Knights remained calm though and looked to have scored in the 51st minute, but the video referee ruled that McManus had knocked the ball forward over the line.
Newcastle retained possession though after Manly had grounded the ball and crossed in the 53rd minute via Uate, who picked up a mistake from Jorge Taufua to score in the northern corner.
Tyrone Roberts missed the conversion from the sideline, but the Knights had a 10-0 lead with 25 minutes remaining.
Uate then went from hero to villain minutes later when he dropped a towering bomb from Cherry-Evans.
This allowed Manly to cross for their first try via Taufua, who made up for his mistake only moments earlier to barge over and score.
Brett Stewart missed the conversion from the sideline, but the Sea Eagles were back in the game trailing 10-4 with 21 minutes left on the clock.
Newcastle extended their lead in the 64th minute when centre Dane Gagai stripped the ball from his opposite Steve Matai to race 70 metres and score.
Gidley missed the conversion from the sideline, but it was the Knights in control leading 14-4 with 14 minutes left in the match.
The skipper then had a chance to add to Newcastle's lead with a penalty goal, but missed the goal.
This gave Manly possession and on the back of a strong set they scored via winger Taufua. Matai missed the conversion, but the Sea Eagles were back in the contest behind 14-8 with less than 10 minutes left.
Manly hit the lead in the 73rd minute after McManus fumbled a Cherry-Evans bomb and lock Jamie Buhrer pounced to score.
Matai added the extras to lock the scores at 14-all with just six minutes remaining.
Knights winger Jake Mamo then rolled the dice minutes later, but was taken over the sideline by some strong Manly defence.
This gave the Sea Eagles vital field position, but they were enable to convert.
The Knights had a chance to seal the match with a field goal in the dying seconds, but fullback Darius Boyd missed the kick.
Newcastle Knights 14 (T: Uate 2, Gagai, G: Gidley 1/2, Roberts 0/1, P: Gidley 0/1)
Manly Sea Eagles 15 (T: Taufua 2, Buhrer, G: Matai 1/3, FG: Cherry-Evans)