The Penrith Panthers NYC side have earned themselves a week off with a 44-24 victory over Manly Sea Eagles at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
However the young Panthers have some judiciary concerns emerging from the game, with both Brent Naden and Sione Katoa placed on report. Christian Crichton also left the game with an ankle injury. It can also be confirmed that playmaker Nathan Cleary has played his last game for Penrith this season, choosing instead to focus on his Australian Schoolboys commitments over the coming weeks.
Coach Cameron Ciraldo sprung a couple of late surprises with Katoa named in the back row after making his NRL debut last weekend. Prop Oliver Clark missed out with a shoulder complaint, seeing Thomson Tuigimala promoted to the starting side.
It took only five minutes for the Sea Eagles to open the scoring on the back of some stoic defence and a helpful penalty. Some neat passing play close to the Panthers’ line ended with five-eighth Will Pearsall putting highly-rated fullback Tom Trbojevic into a yawning gap for his 19th try of the season. Huge Pratt knocked the conversion over for a 6-0 lead.
In the 12th minute Penrith hit back as Tuigamala found an offload and the ball was spread left for winger Christian Crichton to touch down in the corner. Cleary was on target with his conversion attempt and scores were level.
Two minutes later Cleary went himself and crashed over in the tackle, however the referee immediately ruled a double movement. Penrith challenged the decision but it was upheld on review.
In the 20th minute the Panthers dodged a bullet as Manly winger Kyle Saunders couldn’t handle a grubber kick with only the tryline in front of him.
From the next set Penrith marched downfield and took the lead. After a strong charge from Moses Leota put the Panthers a metre out from the tryline, hooker Soni Luke darted out of dummy half to score beneath the posts. Cleary kicked the simple conversion to make the score 12-6.
Katoa was placed on report for an alleged shoulder charge in the 26th minute and Manly went on the attack. However Jarome Luai made a try-saving tackle on Sea Eagles winger Mitch Thomas as he looked destined to win the race to the corner.
Once again the Panthers made the most of Manly’s missed opportunity. A cut-out ball from Cleary on the last tackle found centre Corey Harawira, who back himself and bumped off a couple of would-be tacklers to reach out and score in the right corner. Cleary’s attempted conversion was waved away but Penrith led 16-6 with ten minutes until the break.
It worked the first time so Sea Eagles tried their inside ball from Pearsall to Trbojevic again in the 35th minute and he broke clear. This time Panthers fullback Naden closed him down but he offloaded for centre Jesse Ramien to complete the try. The conversion was successful and Penrith’s lead was reduced to four points.
With three minutes to halftime the other Sea Eagles centre Addison Demetriou reached out to score but lost control of the ball.
As the halftime siren sounded, Naden was penalised and put on report for a heavy tackle on Manly forward James Parker.
HALFTIME – Panthers 16-12
Crichton didn’t return after the break, succumbing to an ankle injury he suffered midway through the first half. Maliko Filino shifted out to the wing, with the ever-versatile Tyrone May moving into the centres.
In the 45th minute Penrith pulled away again with a try in the corner to the new winger Filino. A crafty offload from James Fisher-Harris to Luai on the wraparound opened up space on the left edge and Filino finished the move. Cleary missed the attempted conversion, leaving the score 20-12.
After some heads-up play from Luke earned Penrith a repeat set, Manly prop Liam Knight was put on report for a chicken wing tackle on Harawira.
Two tackles later, Panthers forward Paea Pua was too big and too strong for the defence to handle and crashed over from close range. Cleary slotted the conversion to make the score 26-12 in the 52nd minute.
Penrith were muscling up in defence, and they had to, as penalties began to flow the way of the Sea Eagles with 20 minutes left in the contest.
However it was the Panthers who came away with the next try after Leota went on a bullocking 30 metre charge out of the danger zone. The ball was spread left on the next play and makeshift centre May turned on the afterburners as he blitzed away on a 50 metre break to score. Cleary converted to make it 32-12 in 63rd minute.
Manly gave themselves a glimmer of hope with 13 minutes to go as Demetriou made a one-on-one strip on Harawira and streaked away to score. The successful conversion reduced Penrith’s lead to 14 points.
However Fisher-Harris soon ended the Sea Eagles’ resistance as he crossed from close range in the 72nd minute. Cleary nailed the conversion attempt to make the score 38-18.
Luke iced the victory with a sneaky show-and-go gifting him his second try beneath the posts with four minutes to go. Yet it was Manly who would have the final say in the contest, with some amazing hands from Hynes seeing the halfback touch down in the corner.
FULLTIME - Panthers 44-24