The Penrith Panthers have ended their two-game losing streak in spectacular fashion, running down the Manly Sea Eagles in the dying stages to clinch a 28-24 victory at Lottoland on Saturday afternoon.
The error-riddled opening 10 minutes set the tone for what would be a scrappy affair, from both Manly and the Panthers. Back-to-back penalties to Manly in the 11th and 13thminutes gifted the home side valuable field position and gave captain Daly Cherry-Evans the opportunity to put his team out to a 2-0 lead. Despite Manly looking more ominous in attack for the following 10-minute period, it was the Panthers who managed to score the first try of the afternoon. In a sweeping shift to the right, fullback Tyrone Peachey utilised his speed to isolate Manly centre Brian Kelly before providing a great short ball to send Dean Whare over in the corner. On the back of a repeat set, a clever scoot from hooker Manase Fainu saw him shrug off Panthers’ Sione Katoa, Corey Harawira-Naera and Tyrone Peachey and score under the posts to send Manly into half-time with an 8-6 advantage.
After taking a slim lead into half-time, it appeared that Manly emerged with more intent and will than the boys from Penrith. After a great run from winger Jorge Taufua, a spectacular line-break from Brian Kelly in the 48th minute saw him charge 30 metres up-field before outsmarting Panthers’ fullback Peachey with a no-look pass that sent Cherry-Evans over under the posts. In the following ten minutes, Kelly’s speed and agility proved to be too much for the Panthers’ defence, crossing twice in succession to put Manly out to a 24-6 lead. The Panthers’ response came down their left-edge in the 67thminute, courtesy of a rampaging Waqa Blake who shrugged off two defenders before offloading to a well-positioned Josh Mansour to make it 24-10. Off the back of a penalty, Isaah Yeo continued the Panthers’ fightback when he spun out of a tackle and closed the gap to 10 points with just over nine minutes remaining. Their next try came just 60 seconds later off the restart, when a scintillating 20 metre run from halfback Nathan Cleary presented Waqa Blake with the opportunity to score down the left edge. Cleary once again proved to be the matchwinner, pouncing on a loose ball to score directly under the posts and put the Panthers in front by four with five minutes left in the match. As they have done so many times in 2018, the Panthers made an almighty comeback and broke the hearts of Manly fans, winning 28-24.
Panthers Cash in at Lottoland
Despite being dominated for the majority of this match, the Panthers made amends for their substandard first 70 minutes in the dying stages. After trailing 24-6 with just 19 minutes to go, it appeared that the Panthers were down and out. However, the competitive spirit that they showed in their memorable comeback against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Round 2 was certainly apparent in this Round 20 clash – scoring four tries in eight minutes to steal the victory.
The One That Got Away
It was certainly a missed opportunity for Manly, who were looking to make amends for their dismal performance against the Sydney Roosters last week. Trent Barrett’s men held the advantage and were dominant for the majority of the match, scoring three tries in succession in the early stages of the second half. However, taking their foot off the pedal when they led 24-6 ultimately proved costly, and invited the Panthers to capitalise on their mistakes. With a finals berth out of question, Manly will need to rectify their defensive woes if they are to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.
Panthers Pounce towards Top Four
Securing the two points in this Round 20 clash was very important in the context of the Panthers’ season. With the victory, they have solidified their finals berth and now sit in fifth place on the NRL ladder – in a four-way tie with the Sydney Roosters, Cronulla Sharks and Brisbane Broncos. Given the positive nature of their points differential, the Panthers have given themselves the best opportunity to regain their spot in the tightly contested top four.
Manly Left to Rue Defensive Lapses
Despite holding the advantage for 70 minutes, the attacking prowess of the Panthers proved to be too much for Manly’s defensive line in the final stages. The poor defensive decisions that they showed in Round 19 against the Sydney Roosters appeared again in the final 10 minutes of this clash. The poor reads, yawning gaps and 25 missed tackles ultimately cemented their demise.
Penrith Panthers 28
Tries: Dean Whare, Josh Mansour, Isaah Yeo, Waqa Blake, Nathan Cleary
Goals: Nathan Cleary 4
Manly Sea Eagles 24
Tries: Manase Fainu, Daly Cherry-Evans, Brian Kelly 2
Goals: Daly Cherry-Evans 4
Manly Sea Eagles: 1 Tom Trbojevic, 2 Jorge Taufua, 3 Moses Suli, 4 Brian Kelly, 5 Brad Parker, 6 Dylan Walker, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans (c), 8 Addin Fonua-Blake, 9 Manase Fainu, 17 Taniela Paseka, 11 Joel Thompson, 12 Shaun Lane, 13 Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 10 Martin Taupau, 14 Trent Hodkinson, 15 Kelepi Tanginoa, 16 Frank Winterstein.
Penrith Panthers: 1 Tyrone Peachey, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Waqa Blake, 4 Dean Whare, 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6 James Maloney (c), 7 Nathan Cleary, 17 Moses Leota, 9 Sione Katoa, 10 James Tamou, 11 Viliame Kikau, 13 Isaah Yeo, 8 James Fisher-Harris. Interchange: 12 Corey Harawira-Naera, 14 Tyrone May, 15 Trent Merrin, 16 Jack Hetherington.