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Kalyn Ponga and Enari Tuala have combined to put a huge hole in Manly's finals hopes by leading the Knights to a 26-24 win in Newcastle.

The Sea Eagles – who went into the McDonald Jones Stadium match without star quintet Tom Trbojevic, Dylan Walker, Addin Fonua-Blake, Martin Taupau and Jorge Taufua – fought bravely but now find themselves four points out of the top eight with just six matches remaining.

Ponga, who was his usual inventive self, created space for Tuala inside the final eight minutes and the powerful centre did the rest.

The Maroons star then converted to give his side the lead.

As well as the five key men they started without, Manly lost fullback Brendan Elliot to a knee injury in the 19th minute. The good news was they were leading 12-0.

The Knights eclipsed the Sea Eagles 14-12 before the Lottoland crowd six weeks ago (round eight) and it seemed that Manly intended to return serve at the Knights home ground from the opening whistle.

Cade Cust's opening try after just three minutes was a fine example of a never-say-die attitude by the visitors. Brad Parker batted a Cherry-Evans kick back infield after Hymel Hunt let it bounce.

Manly throw down their nomination for try of the year

Cust collected it and then threaded a kick through two Knights players before beating Gehamat Shibasaki to ground the ball.

After Cherry-Evans added a second for his side, the Knights responded through Star To'a off a great ball from Ponga. The young winger - in just his third NRL game - has now scored back to back tries after crossing against the Wests Tigers a week ago.

Then, off the back of a penalty, hooker Kurt Mann caught the Sea Eagles defence asleep close to the line. Scores were locked at 12-12 and the Knights were ahead on the penalty count 5-1.

Enterprise stayed with the Knights and after centre Tuala handled twice to score, the team from the Hunter grabbed a 16-12 halftime lead.

They went further ahead when Hunt scored early (45th minute) in the second half. It meant the Knights had piled on 20 unanswered points.

But Jack Gosiewski - filling in at centre - then pounced on a Cherry-Evans grubber before Lachlan Croker dragged Ponga over the line, and Many took back the lead 24-20.

After repelling set after set on their own line, the Sea Eagles finally relented with Tuala scoring his second. Ponga's conversion allowed the Knights to snatch back the lead and hang on for the remaining few minutes.


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