The Panthers have put their injury woes behind them and have come up with a courageous performance to beat Manly 22-12 in front of an enthusiastic home crowd at Pepper Stadium tonight.
The night began with a moment’s silence for cricket legend Richie Benaud who passed away during the week.
Coach Ivan Cleary was forced to make a few changes to his starting line-up after Peter Wallace was ruled out with a knee injury. Isaac John came into the halves alongside Api Koroisau and Elijah Taylor was named Captain. Brent Kite made his return from a shoulder injury, and Nigel Plum was promoted to the starting side.
The Panthers opened the scoring three minutes into the match after being awarded a penalty for a late release in a tackle, 60m out from our line. After the 40-20, James Segeyaro sent the ball left to Api Koroisau who passed it onto Matt Moylan, who threw a beautiful cut out pass to Josh Mansour on the wing, and he sprinted 10m to the line to dive over and score. After the video ref checked the grounding, the try was awarded, and with Moylan’s conversion from the sideline, the home side took a 6-0 lead.
In the 10th minute Kieran Foran almost hit back for the Sea Eagles when he charged towards their line and lurched forwards through a pack of Panthers players, but he dropped the ball just before hitting the ground, so they took play back to the 10m line.
Manly had another decent crack at their line in the 21st minute after being awarded a penalty for a head high tackle on Steve Matai. Penrith’s defence held strong but the Sea Eagles forced a goal line drop out to give them another set.
It was this set that produced their first try of the game after Justin Horo chased a grubber kick from Daly Cherry-Evans and dived onto the ball in spectacular fashion to ground it before a Penrith hand could bat it out of the way. The conversion levelled the score at 6-6 in the 25th minute.
With 3 minutes until half time, a Penrith ball fumble gave Manly a fresh set of six, 5m out from their line. A penalty against the Panthers on the 4th tackle then gave the Sea Eagles a chance to kick for two, putting them in front 8-6 heading into the break.
HALF TIME: 8-6 MANLY
Things didn’t start off too well for the Panthers this half after a penalty against us, and a Manly chance at a try that was way too close for comfort, a goal line drop out and then a dropped ball – all in the first 10 minutes.
In the 11th minute, Elijah Taylor had to leave the field with a knee issue.
We were then awarded a penalty 10m out from our line in the 53rd minute, but our set was halted after Jamal Idris got caught up in an awkward tackle and had to leave the field with a knee issue. When play continued we grubber kicked the ball up and over the line, but Manly booted it out so it was a goal line drop out.
We made the most of the back to back sets and with some quick passes from Isaac John to Moylan to Mansour on the wing, Sauce dived over just inside the corner post for his second try of the night! The kick drifted off target, but the 4 points put the Panthers in front 10-8, with 21 minutes to play.
Two minutes later we were over again, and it was a special one – it was Waqa Blake’s first NRL try! After collecting a sneaky close range pass from Tyrone Peachey 20m out, he darted through a couple of Manly defenders and palmed off another to sprint over the line and get the ball down behind the posts. Moylan sent the ball straight through the uprights to extend our lead to 16-8.
We had our third unanswered try in the 64th minute and it was another one to celebrate – new recruit Api Koroisau had his first NRL try in Panthers colours! A beautifully timed offload from Isaah Yeo to Sika Manu got the ball up to the 10m line, and after positioning himself perfectly in front of the posts, Api ran onto Sika’s pass and went straight through a couple of Sea Eagles defenders to dive over to score. Moylan’s kick moved us to 22-8 in front.
Manly almost hit back in the 68th minute when Jake Trbojevic barged his way over his line right next to one of the uprights, but Penrith’s defenders held him up and it was ruled a no try. After another couple of attempts they finally made it over when Chase Blair flicked a pass into open space just as he was about to be taken over the sideline, and Steve Matai scooped up the loose ball and ran over the line to score. The kick was waved away so the score went to 22-12.
With 3 minutes on the clock the Sea Eagles forced a goal line drop out, but some very messy play saw Koroisau showcase his soccer skills and boot the loose ball three-quarters of the way down the field before the ref called the play back for a Manly scrum feed. But a dropped pass gave Penrith possession with 90 seconds on the clock.
FULL TIME: PANTHERS 22-12