The Panthers survived a late scare to hold off a fast finishing Sea Eagles in a 15-12 win at Panthers Stadium on Thursday night.
Both the Panthers and Sea Eagles had their opportunities early but neither side could capitalise, the Panthers opening the scoring in the 20th minute with a James Maloney penalty goal. It was off the ensuing set the first try game, a neat Jarome Luai inside ball to a barnstorming Liam Martin who broke through the line before handing the ball off to Dylan Edwards who ran away to score next to the posts. A long range field goal to Maloney on the stroke off half time meant the Panthers went into the break with a 9-0 lead.
The Sea Eagles once again had their opportunities in the second half but the Panthers showed plenty of resilience defending their own line. A high tackle on Panthers’ Brian To’o coming out of his own end caused tensions to rise, with both Luai and Manly’s Jack Gosiewski sin binned for striking each other in the 52nd minute. Just over 10 minutes later, Liam Martin pounced on a loose ball to score after Brendan Elliot fumbled a Luai grubber, capping off an incredibly impressive performance for the Panthers rookie. Maloney’s conversion made it 15-0 with 15 minutes remaining, and two Manly tries to Manase Fainu and Cade Cust in the final 10 minutes set up a grandstand finish but the Panthers were able to hold on for their second consecutive win.
TOO LITTLE TOO LATE FOR MANLY
It took 70 minutes for the Sea Eagles to trouble the scorers. They came home strong and gave the Panthers an almighty fright late in the game but ultimately there wasn’t enough time to get the job done.
They often lacked direction in attack against some stiff Panthers defence, with Kane Elgey’s short kicking game also struggling throughout the night. There’s some work to do, even with some of their stars still to return.
YOUNG PANTHERS STAND UP
Liam Martin enjoyed easily his best game in the NRL in the win, being involved in the Panthers two tries for the night. After only coming into the side an hour from kick off when Viliame Kikau was ruled out due to illness, he set up the first with a very strong run and impressive footwork before jumping on a Manly error to score the second. He ended up with 104 run metres, 36 tackles, a line break and a try assist, and while those stats may not jump off the page, Martin played with high intensity and energy, running and tackling all night.
Mitch Kenny was also very impressive, playing 80 minutes at hooker in just his second NRL game. He finished with 58 tackles and his delivery from dummy half was crisp all night. With both Wayde Egan and Sione Katoa struggling to lock down the no. 9 jersey, the emergence of Kenny might be just what the Panthers need.
SEA EAGLES MISS THEIR STARS
Rookie five-eighth Cade Cust was one of the few bright spots for the Sea Eagles tonight, but it was halfback Kane Elgey who struggled in the loss. His kicking game rarely hit a target, particularly inside the Panthers’ 20-metre line.
The Sea Eagles struggled to crack the Panthers defensive line for the majority of the game, and will be hoping the return of Daly Cherry-Evans and potentially Tom Trbojevic after Origin will give this team the spark they need to turn their recent struggles around.
STILL ISSUES FOR PENRITH BUT CONFIDENCE CONTINUES TO RISE
It wasn’t a perfect performance for the Panthers. They won’t be happy they allowed it to get so close towards the end after controlling the game for the best part of 70 minutes. Issues that have plagued the side all season also hurt them in this game.
Their completion rate was still far lower than what it needs to be, sitting at 73%, while the 56 missed tackles will also be a concern. The positives are obviously the play of their young stars, as mentioned above, as well as a strong performance from James Maloney. After missing last week due to suspension, Maloney controlled the game extremely well, his kicking game on point all night.
PENRITH PANTHERS 15
Tries: Dylan Edwards, Liam Martin
Goals: James Maloney 3/3
Drop Goals: James Maloney 1
MANLY SEA EAGLES 12
Tries: Manase Fainu, Cade Cust
Goals: Reuben Garrick 2/2
Drop Goals: n/a
PENRITH PANTHERS: 1 Dylan Edwards, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Isaah Yeo, 4 Brent Naden, 5 Brian To’o, 6 Jarome Luai, 7 James Maloney, 8 James Tamou, 14 Mitchell Kenny, 17 Tim Grant, 21 Liam Martin, 12 Frank Winterstein, 13 James Fisher-Harris Interchange: 9 Sione Katoa, 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 15 Tyrell Fuimaono, 16 Moses Leota
MANLY SEA EAGLES: 1 Brendan Elliot, 2 Jorge Taufua, 3 Dylan Walker, 4 Reuben Garrick, 5 Abbas Miski, 6 Cade Cust, 7 Kane Elgey, 8 Addin Fonua-Blake, 9 Apisau Korisau, 10 Martin Taupau, 11 Joel Thompson, 12 Curtis Sironen, 13 Corey Waddell Interchange: 14 Manase Fainu, 15 Jack Gosiewski, 17 Taniela Paseka, 21 Lloyd Perrett