The Manly Sea Eagles have prevailed in an important clash to get a convincing win against the Penrith Panthers finishing 28-12 to reach the finals for the first time in two years in front of a packed out Lottoland.

MANLY RISE TO OCCASION

The epic match between Manly and Panthers had many consequences attached to the fixture with either side losing having the potential of missing finals. The feeling at Lottoland was demanding with past legends in Matt Ballin, Brett Stewart and Steve Matai being farewelled in front of a sold out venue, the pressure was on the Manly side with their finals hopes on the line against a side in form over the last 10 rounds of the competition. From the kick off the home side showed strong intent restricting the Panthers from reaching the 30 metre line before having to kick in their first set, this continued throughout the match for 60 minutes with the forwards of the Sea Eagles laying a perfect platform for the backline to pile on the points in front of a packed hill. The northern beaches side produced a performance that was reminiscing of past teams showing dominance from the outset and playing an expansive brand of football to be leading for the entire match.

TWIN TURBO’S FIRE UP

The Trbojevic brothers have given the Sea Eagles a finals appearance for the first time in two years with both having outstanding games and putting the Panthers to bed while showing fans flashbacks to the great Stewart brothers that championed the club to premierships. The young duo was instrumental in pushing their side into contention of the finals with near perfect games, Tom Trbojevic having an already groundbreaking 2017 season collected a try, 2 line breaks, try assist while breaking 8 tackles and running over a total of 250 metres. Jake Trbojevic being a young forward showing impressive minutes each week was the instigator with the stand made by Manly the forwards, giving the Panthers pack a hard time with and without the ball he was a man on a mission producing huge plays to make errors and even to support his fellow forward Lloyd Perrett close to the line to crash over for a crucial four pointer. The Sea Eagles will be banking on these two brothers to come out with more inspirational showings in the finals to etch them closer to proving themselves as top tier players in the league.

PANTHER EDGES PANIC

The Panthers edge defence was tested within the first minutes of the match with a try to Brian Kelly within the first 7 minutes of the game. The sliding work of the Penrith outside backs was the downfall of the side with both right and left edges of the team unable to contain the dangerous shift plays and overlapping that the Sea Eagles created. The main pressure point for the visitors was their right hand defence with Waqa Blake and Dallin Watene Zelezniak having trouble containing the barrage of traffic which resulted in three of the five tries which would be concerning in the last round of the regular season. The entire defence was struggling once that edge had been found out within the opening exchanges leaving the Panthers vulnerable to multiple attacking raids.

THE FINALS EQUATION

The outcome with the Sea Eagles coming away with a win at home against the Panthers will hold certain outcomes. The Manly side has now moved ahead of Penrith team to hold 6th position, now waiting on the result of the Dragons playing the Bulldogs  which should see the Dragons win and be matched against the Sea Eagles at 7th. A win to Bulldogs would see the Cowboys stay in the top 8 and have Panthers play a back-to-back matches against Manly. The likely result will have the Illawarra side beat the Dogs to give Penrith 8th place by the end of the round to take on last year’s premiers Sharks in the first round of the finals. The bottom four of the finals teams will all play within Sydney, there is limited home advantage as the venues will be picked between neutral grounds Allianz or ANZ stadium with the potential of a double-header.

SCOREBOARD

Manly Sea Eagles 28                                                                                               Tries: Kelly, Cherry-Evans, J.Trbojevic, T.Trbojevic, Sironen                                       Goals: Wright 4/5

Penrith Panthers 12
Tries: May, Campbell-Gillard
Goals: Cleary 2/2