The Penrith Panthers overcame a week of turmoil to defeat the Manly Sea Eagles 22-10 at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night. The game was a rematch of the round 26 clash, where Manly ran out convincing winners at Lottoland. A controversial try, along with a competitive 80 minute performance from Penrith, allowed them to advance to the second week of the finals and face the Brisbane Broncos in another sudden-death clash next weekend.

Peachey try overshadows an otherwise terrific clash

In a game that needed to be more even than last week’s affair, both the Panthers and the Sea Eagles played and executed at a high level. Manly’s defence was great early on, and Penrith started the game with great offensive play. However, in the 74th minute, a controversial call left a sour taste.

After a Manly dropout, the Panthers were given terrific field position, and on the fifth tackle, Bryce Cartwright put in a grubber kick with Tyrone Peachey grounding the ball. What initially looked to be contact off his leg, the replay showed on one angle his finger making contact with the ball, while another angle suggested it did not. No conclusive evidence could be found to reverse the on-field decision, and Penrith were given a try that may have gone the other way if Gerard Sutton initially believed it was a no try.

From there Manly were rattled, and they gifted Penrith possession, where they sealed the 22-10 win. The score in no way resembled how close and competitive the game truly was. Tempers boiled over, players pushed one another and the intensity in tackling and forward running was huge.

Penrith right their wrongs from a week ago

The Panthers’ main issue in round 26 was their inability to be competitive early on, and they were always chasing the game. Last night though the Panthers came out with confidence and a well-orchestrated attack. Their completion percentage was good early on, with 18/21 sets completed as well as 54 percent of possession in the first half. Manly’s defence was tested early, and as always Cleary’s kicking game was solid with over 600 metres and continuously threatening Manly’s goal line, as well as nailing five goals.

As the game moved on Manly got into their groove offensively, and Penrith handled this well while capitalising on their own opportunities. Manly’s running metres changed from last week, going from 1912 metres down to 1536 metres while Penrith’s running game improved. Converting their penalties into points, Cleary’s boot gave Penrith a six-point led going into halftime and through the second half the Panthers were able to hold on and make the most of their own opportunities.

Manly fail to compete in the second half

The Sea Eagles’ attacking play in round 26 was terrific, and they caught the Panthers off guard early on. One week later, the Panthers started off the better side with more ball and attacking opportunities. Manly’s solid defence allowed them to hold out the Panthers and concede nothing more than penalties early on. Regardless of their efforts and enthusiasm, Manly’s attack simply was not the same, and their defensive effort was not enough to save them from losing the game.

With only one try from a handful of opportunities, the Sea Eagles failed to convert their second half chances. Dylan Walker was caught offside and denied a try, Akuila Uate failed to ground the ball off a Cherry-Evans kick and later Brian Kelly nearly went over but failed to hold onto a pass from Tom Trbojevic. An attack that was scintillating for the majority of the season, the Sea Eagles will rue their missed chances and, regardless of Peachey’s try, Barrett’s men will look no further than a mirror for the culprit of their elimination.

Cartwright shows glimpses of his old self

Bryce Cartwright has had a quiet 2017, after two great seasons to establish himself as one of the best up-and-coming forwards in the game. Cartwright suffered an injury and was out of action from rounds 12 to 20 this year. But after much waiting, his performance against Manly showed how much of an asset he is in Penrith’s side, and adds another weapon to an already strong forward pack.

Cartwright scored Penrith’s first try after coming off the bench, with a Nathan Cleary grubber deflecting off the posts. Their final try of the game, coming after Peachey’s controversial try which Cartwright assisted, was a terrific solo effort with Cartwright shrugging off numerous tackles and sealing the win for the mountain men.

Even when he did not score, Cartwright was a handful for the defence with his terrific footwork, elusiveness and ability to offload the ball in a variety of situations. He averaged just over seven metres per carry, as well as a line break to finish with a solid haul coming off the bench. He will once again be massive next week against the Broncos in Brisbane.

 

Panthers: 22
Tries: Cartwright (2) (34m, 79m), Peachey (74m)
Goals: Cleary 5/5

Sea Eagles: 10
Tries: Walker (26m), Brown (62m)
Goals: Wright 1/3