Cherry-Evans kicks Manly into eight with extra-time win

Scott Bailey |

Manly players surround Daly Cherry-Evans after the halfback’s dramatic late match-winner.
Manly players surround Daly Cherry-Evans after the halfback’s dramatic late match-winner.

The NRL’s golden-point king has propelled Manly back into the top eight, with Daly Cherry-Evans kicking the Sea Eagles to a 21-20 win over North Queensland.

After the Cowboys missed five field goals in regulation and extra time, Cherry-Evans stood up in the first half of golden point to nail a shot from 30 metres out.

The win moved the Sea Eagles into seventh spot on the NRL ladder after a high-tempo Townsville clash that leaves the Cowboys behind them in eighth.

Manly welcomed back Tom Trbojevic, playing at centre, with the 2021 Dally M medallist having limited involvement in his first game in eight weeks.

But while all the pre-match focus was on Trbojevic, Cherry-Evans was the star.

Manly led the game 18-6 via a Jason Saab hat-trick, before the winger limped off with what the Sea Eagles hoped was only cramp and the Cowboys surged back to 18-18.

Jason Saab scores one his tries for Manly against the Cowboys.
Jason Saab scored a hat-trick but left the field with what Manly hope was just cramp. (Scott Radford-Chisholm/AAP PHOTOS)

Cherry-Evans’ first game-changing moment came when he skipped out of dummy-half with eight minutes to play, earning a penalty when pulled back after passing.

The Sea Eagles went 20-18 in front on the next set, after Jeremiah Nanai was penalised for interference in the ruck.

But North Queensland were back level when Scott Drinkwater slotted a two-point field goal from 43 metres out with three minutes left on the clock.

Cherry-Evans had a chance to win it for the Sea Eagles but sprayed a shot wide, before a Jake Trbojevic charge down accounted for one of three missed kicks from Chad Townsend before fulltime.

The Cowboys had two more chances in golden point, only for Valentine Holmes to fluff both.

But Cherry-Evans would not be denied twice, kicking his seventh golden-point field goal – three more than any other player. 

“There were some amazing efforts to save tries and block field goals,” Cherry-Evans said. 

“Jake’s one in particular was massive play just before the game ended in normal time. 

“A lot of things happened before (the winning kick) to help me get in that position, so I am proud of the boys for digging deep.”

Influential throughout, Cherry-Evans had set up Manly’s first try of the night with a delayed pass for Saab in the second minute.

Saab’s next came when he spun over and he added his third shortly after halftime, before the Cowboys took control of the game after the break.

Townsend, after 12 minutes, scored a try for the hosts, while Reuben Cotter was particularly strong, busting through Haumole Olakau’atu for a 51st-minute effort.

Three minutes later Kyle Feldt added the Cowboys’ third try of the evening to level the scores.

Jason Taumalolo continued his resurgence and was clearly North Queensland’s best forward with strong stints in each half.

“We should have won,” coach Todd Payten said.

“Really disappointing. Heartbreaking. Multiple chances to win the game. 

“But when you’re wasting opportunities like we did in the first half, and then five field-goal shots. You’ve got to get it done.”

Manly's Tolu Koula (second right).
Tolu Koula (second right) put in another strong performance at fullback for Manly. (Scott Radford-Chisholm/AAP PHOTOS)

For Manly, a question hovers over how to eventually return Tom Trbojevic to fullback, with the initial plan for him to play left centre for the next month.

He got through unscathed and had 13 runs for 70 metres, while also getting through a heavy defensive workload while adjusting to the position.

But stand-in No.1 Tolu Koula again starred at the back. 

He finished with 298 metres and seven tackle busts, setting up a second-half try when he broke down field and put Saab over for his third.

AAP