Penrith 36 Manly 0
A disjointed preparation brought about by an injury crisis of epic proportions in the Panthers NRL game less than 24 hours earlier failed to rattle Penrith’s NSW Cup side as they edged closer to securing the NSW Cup minor premiership with a 36-0 shutout of Manly at Sportingbet Stadium today.
The Panthers were already without Sam Anderson, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Anthony Cherrington to injury when it was decided that Matt Robinson and Kevin Kingston would be withdrawn to cover for injuries suffered by the NRL team. On the upside the injury crisis allowed newly re-signed coach Garth Brennan to provide opportunities to Daniel Foster, Liam Ayoub, Mitch Clark and NSW Cup debutant Peter Tia Tia, who remarkably just months earlier was playing SG Ball for the Panthers. Manly suffered the late withdrawal of Delroy Berryman replaced by Tyson Andrews in a reshuffled Manly line-up.
Penrith got off to another flying start scoring in the 5th minute when Waqa Blake showed incredible strength to single handily take on the Manly defensive line from 20 metres out bursting through would-be defenders at will and carrying several more across the line to score and with Wes Naiqama’s conversion, Penrith were looking ominous leading 6-0.
However for the remainder of the first half the Panthers failed to convert their numerous opportunities into points through poor last play options despite good work done by the likes of Wes and Kevin Naiqama in breaking the line. Manly’s defended grimly and their task wasn’t helped when fullback Dominic Reardon was forced from the field midway through the 1st half.
A Manly lost ball 40 metres out from their own line was the catalyst for Penrith to finally double their lead when a quick play the ball from Nathan Smith allowed Tom Humble to catch the Manly defence napping to score an easy try under the posts. Penrith could have extended their lead when Ryan Simpkins broke the line down Manly’s right edge before finding Eto Nabuli but the Fijian Flyer’s offload went astray which left Penrith leading 12-0 at half time.
The Panthers dominated possession in the opening 15 minutes of the second half but again errors at crucial times prevented the premiership favourites from extending their lead until Tom Humble exploded into action to score back to back tries in consecutive sets to double Penrith’s lead to 24 points. His third try in the 61st minute was something to behold as a Liam Ayoub grubber kick close to the Manly try line ricocheted in the direction of Humble who showed tremendous poised to trap the ball with his foot in a manner that wouldn’t have been out of place on the fields of Wembley let alone Sportingbet Stadium to regather and score next to the posts.
The Panthers for once showed poise in a period of the game that has troubled them throughout the season to further extend the lead when Tom Eisenhuth burst thru the Manly line to go on a long run before finding setting up Blake for his 10th try of the season. Tom Humble took over the kicking duties and duly converted from near touch to push the lead out to 30 points.
Manly’s woes went from bad to worse when a push and shove at the play the ball led to punches being thrown by Tyson Andrews on Reagan Campbell-Gillard, who was rightly sent to the sin bin for his troubles. The Panthers capitalised scoring through Kevin Naiqama, the beneficiary of a beautifully weighted kick behind the Manly line by Humble. Humble again converting from near the touchline to finish Penrith’s day with a comprehensive 36-0 win.
The Panthers next take on wooden spoon favourites, the North Sydney Bears next Saturday at Sportingbet Stadium while Manly will now re-group and prepare for the clash against Wentworthville Magpies at Ringrose next Sunday.
Penrith 36 (Tom Humble 3, Waqa Blake 2, Kevin Naiqama tries; Wes Naiqama 4 goals, Tom Humble 2 goals) at Sportingbet Stadium. Referee: Daniel Oldford. Touch Judges: Faye Breslin, Brenden Wood. Penalties: Penrith 8-5. Half-time: Penrith 12-0. Goal-kickers: Wes Naiqama (Penrith) 4 from 4, Tom Humble (Penrith) 2 from 2.