Kieran Foran should have succumbed to a knee injury but played through the pain barrier to guide his side to a stunning win.

Matchwinner Foran should have left field

Kieran Foran shouldn't have won the match for Manly. He shouldn't even have been on the field.

Manly's stand in halfback picked up a knee injury in his side's 26-21 win over the Cowboys on Friday night – but refused to leave the field and ended up clinching the game for his side with a pair of high pressure plays.

With Manly trailing 20-14 and then 21-20, Foran scored one try (in admittedly dubious circumstances), then laid on the matchwinner for Jamie Buhrer despite hobbling around on one leg for much of the second half.

Manly coach Geoff Toovey said after the game that Foran had played hurt in the second half but didn't want to come off – "and thank heavens for us he stayed out there".

Foran left the sheds with his right knee in a brace and heavily iced, and said he would have scans on Saturday morning to determine the extent of the damage.

"It was a bit sore there in the second half. I managed to get through the game, I'm just going to brace it up and see how it pulls up on Monday," he said.

"I was thinking about going off but I thought as long as I can jog and run I'll stay out there – I was desperate to get the win."

Of his brave last tackle option – a short pass to Jamie Buhrer in the 77th minute rather than the logical option of a cross-field kick – Foran told NRL.com he just noticed the Cowboys were short on their right side defence.

"I had the two guys outside me in [Jamie] Buhrer and [Justin] Horo, and just thought about sticking to our shapes and structures that we'd been running all game, and it opened up nicely for Jimmy to slide through there."

Foran also admitted to some concern about how the video referee would view his try given the potential obstruction from Buhrer.

"I can't make those calls; that's footy I guess, sometimes they go against you, sometimes they don't.

"I was talking to Jimmy Buhrer and asking him what he thought and whether he got through [the line]. He was unsure, he was 50-50, he said he tried to get through the line and wasn't sure what happened. So I was 50-50, I kind of looked up, I was watching it and thinking it could go either way but I'm really glad it went our way!"

Foran was also full of praise for teammates Jamie Lyon – who again filled in the halves, due to the absence of Daly Cherry-Evans with leg soreness – as well as the Stewart brothers.

"[Lyon's] an experienced campaigner, he won a comp there in '08, he's a quality five-eighth and a world class centre so whenever one of us is injured he seems to slide in there and do just as good a job so he's really handy to have in there when one of us is out."

He also revealed the side's preference on the night to target their left side attack against experienced campaigner Brent Tate and debutant Curtis Rona – a move that paid dividends on several occasions in the match – was prompted by fullback Brett Stewart's reading of the play.

"We had a bit of joy there early so we thought we'd keep going that way. Brett Stewart's really good like that, he's an extra pair of eyes out there, he's got great ball playing ability and he just tipped us up and said that's the edge to keep going all night."

He also said Glenn Stewart's ball playing skills came in handy, especially with Cherry-Evans absent and Anthony Watmough leaving the field in the 32nd minute with an elbow injury.

"Glenn was brilliant tonight I thought... his defence led us towards the back end of the game there, he was getting off the line and hitting blokes and stopping them. We all know what he can do with the ball, he creates so many options. I thought they both had blinders tonight."