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Timing their run ... the Sea Eagles celebrate. Photo: Wolter Peeters

WITH Newcastle threatening to come back from a 34-point half time deficit, Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans produced a play that many wouldn't even contemplate attempting.

Wayne Bennett never thought his side were a chance of pulling off a miraculous fightback, but Manly back-rower Anthony Watmough believes Cherry-Evans' short drop-out ''saved'' the Sea Eagles from potential embarrassment.

''That saved us, in my opinion anyway,'' Watmough said.

''That goes to show where our two halves are at. Fozza [Kieran Foran] has called it and Chezza [Cherry-Evans] has put it in the right place. That was definitely a momentum-swinger, a game-changer.''

Leading by 18 points with 13 minutes remaining, Cherry-Evans caught the Knights, who had just scored three tries in 13 minutes, napping when he dabbed his drop-out between Neville Costigan and Akuila Uate. Foran latched on to the loose ball 12 metres out from his own line and charged 50 metres down field, then earned a penalty for his side after the Knights defenders placed him in a dangerous position.

With that play, the Knights' slim semi-final hopes took a monumental blow. ''I think we just had a bit of a look up and there were a few of us standing there - I think myself and Kitey and T-Rex,'' Foran said.

''We could see that Costigan was in field and the winger was hugging the sideline. We just signalled to Cherry to look at the short one and I knew he was going to go there once he had a look because there was a big enough gap. I took off and got a lucky bounce.

''A few of the boys were saying it changed the game there. There was a bit of a momentum swing because we were on the back foot, then the next minute we're heading down field with a penalty off the run.''