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Knights coach Adam O'Brien applauded his skipper Mitchell Pearce for a fine "captain's knock" after his injury-hit side turned the tables on Manly at Lottoland in a gutsy 14-12 win.

The Knights didn't score a point in the second half but their courage can't be measured by that yardstick.

Down three key players, O'Brien singled out several of his team including prop Jacob Saifiti and Pearce.

Winger Edrick Lee was taken to Northern Beaches Hospital with a suspected broken left forearm, while back rower Sione Mata'utia left the field dazed after a second head knock, and fullback Kalyn Ponga was also taken from the field to enter the concussion protocols.

"We had some guys like Jacob Saifiti play some huge minutes in the middle," O'Brien said.

It was the performance the coach wanted after a 32-20 loss to the Cowboys seven days earlier.

Knights: Round 8

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And part of keeping the side focused "with a banged-up dressing room" – as O'Brien put it – was Pearce.

He was limping after the game but gave O'Brien "the thumbs up" as he was being worked on in the physio room.

The 31-year-old was the target of a lot of criticism following the Townsville disappointment but he was a far steadier and more calculating player against the Sea Eagles.

"I thought he laid our foundations early with our kicking game and his running threats – he had 11 runs at half-time," O'Brien said.

Dramatic finish ends with Fonua-Blake sent off

"I thought our other halves were a little quiet tonight but he certainly wasn't.

"I thought it was a real good captain's knock and that was what he was like all week. He was outstanding leading the boys at training and into the game."

The Knights have jumped into fourth but what pleased O'Brien more was the return of some steel in his players.

"We spoke about that all week. There's things we can get better on but I didn't care how we won I just wanted us to be gutsy – the gritty, tough, resilient team that we set out to be at the start of the year.

"I thought we got that back tonight.

"We weren't focused on Manly but we knew how hard it was to come here and walk away, or rather limp away, with a win.

"We showed signs earlier in the year of gut strength, defending our try line, having a real crack and a dig for ourselves, our club, our supporters and our town.

"It's clearly not set in stone for us yet. We didn't have it last week… so we're still learning who we are and how we hang onto that grit."

Asked his thoughts on the frantic end to the match, and the controversy over whether a penalty or penalty try should have been awarded, O'Brien said:  "It's not for me to worry about."