The Penrith Panthers easily accounted for Manly Sea Eagles 42-8 at Brookvale Oval to win their 4th game in a row and 8 of their last 9 games to cement their status as the team to beat in this year’s NSW Cup. A powerhouse performance from Fijian Flyer, Eto Nabuli was the catalyst for the win, scoring 2 tries & having a hand in three others thou he was well supported by the likes of Kevin Naiqama, Bryce Cartwright & Ben Murdoch Masila.
The Panthers went into this game losing Isaah Yeo to injury, replaced by Tom Eisenhuth coming on to the bench, allowing Garth Brennan to once again allow Cartwright to start the game in the halves. As was the case against the Bulldogs last week, the Panthers got off to a flying start when that Fijian Flyer finished off an excellent backline sweep that saw play go the width of the field from 25m out before Nabuli finished off with a bumping run to score in the left corner. The sideline conversion from Will Smith giving Penrith the complete dream start leading 6-0 after 2 minutes.
Will Smith could have scored the second try just 4 minutes later but after regathering his own grubber kick close to the Manly line, some desperate Manly defence forced the error & the chance went begging. A Manly error in the next set allowed Penrith to score when a Bryce Cartwright cross field kick was batted back by Eto Nabuli & the skipper Nathan Smith cleaned up the loose ball to score out wide from close range to give Penrith a 10-0 lead.
Manly dominated possession & territory for the next ten minutes but were unable to convert pressure into points & were made to pay for it on 20 minutes when Nabuli made a determined run down the left touchline before offloading in traffic to his centre partner Kevin Naiqama who was able to force his way over for the try from close range. Will Smith’s conversion from the sideline extended the lead out to 16.
Manly finally got on the scoreboard in the 26th minute on the back of several repeat sets aided by some poor discipline from the Panthers. Manly took advantages of their numbers out on the right before a terrific short ball from fullback Clinton Gutherson allowed centre Cheyse Blair to score a determined try from close range but Manaia Rudolph was unable to land the conversion from out wide to leave the Sea Eagles trailing 16-4.
The last ten minutes of the half was punctuated with mistakes from both sides but on the stroke of half time, Penrith extended its lead back to 16 after Tom Humble, making his return to football after nearly 12 months out of the game with a serious ankle injury, rolled the ball behind Manly’s left edge for winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to win the race to the ball & score unopposed in the corner.
A kick out on the full in Manly’s first set after half time was the catalyst for the Panthers scoring three tries in as many sets to put the game well beyond Manly’s reach. A sweeping backline movement just inside Manly’s half, allowed Kevin Naiqama to put Nabuli away on a powerhouse 25m run down the left touchline bumping off three Manly defenders to score in the corner to extend the lead 24-4. From the next set, Bryce Cartwright took advantage of Manly’s defence frailty out on their right edge yet again putting Kevin Naiqama into the clear & the Fijian centre did the rest on a dazzling 45m run to score left of the uprights to push Penrith clear 30-4.
Then to complete Manly’s misery a great short ball from Humble 10m short of halfway put Waqa Blake into the gap before finding Murdoch-Masila backing up inside to continue the movement with a terrific run toying with the covering defence at will before finally offloading to the fullback Kieran Moss close to the Manly try to score. Will Smith’s conversion saw Penrith lead 36-4.
Penrith took the foot off the throat somewhat allowing Manly to finally make some breaks of their own with replacement back rower Dylan Kelly prominent as Manly found some space down Penrith’s right edge. Only poor last pass options & executions prevented Manly from converting those opportunities into points. In fact their entire second half was littered with errors as Manly chased the second half completing just 9 of 17 sets. However Manly finally got on the score sheet for the 2nd half in the 59th minute, when a cut out pass from Jamil Hopoate allowed Kelly to go over untouched from close range. With Rudolph taken off the field, Gutherson failed with his conversion attempt from near the left touchline leaving Manly behind 36-8.
Penrith finally got the scoreboard ticking over once more in the 71st minute with perhaps the try of the game when Penrith early in the tackle count sent the ball out left from inside their own 20m before Will Smith put Nabuli into the clear before the Fijian Flyer drew the fullback to put Dallin Watene-Zelezniak away for a scorching 40m run to score unopposed underneath the posts to complete the score for the afternoon 42-8.
The Panthers now look forward to taking on the Illawarra Cutters next Sunday afternoon 4pm at Collegians Sports Complex in what is shaping up as a terrific clash between teams 2 & 5 on the ladder & with some personal scores to settle with the likes of Geoff Daniella & Junior Tia Kilifi taking on their former club, while Manly will take on Wyong at Brookvale Oval 3pm next Saturday afternoon.
Penrith 42 (Eto Nabuli 2, Kevin Naiqama 2, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2, Nathan Smith, Kieran Moss Will Smith 5 goals) d. Manly 8 (Cheyse Blair, Dylan Kelly)