A hat-trick from Will Smith inspired the Panthers to a 24-6 victory over Manly in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW at Pepper Stadium on Saturday.
All eyes were on Panthers veterans Jamie Soward and James Segeyaro, who hit the field together as part of Penrith's ISP side for the first time this season.
The duo's experience, combined with Will Smith's speed and footwork, inspired Steve Georgallis’ squad to come together in the closing minutes to send Manly packing.
Penrith looked set to open the scoring, winning consecutive sets deep within Manly territory. The home side spent the first then minutes frustratingly close to the line but were unable to turn the possession into points.
Manly eventually forced an error and playmaker Pita Godinet fired a cunning offload to put Ben Fritz over the line in the 11th minute. Hugh Pratt slotted the conversion to put the visitors up 6-0.
The Panthers struck back in the 17th minute with an urgent set that saw Jamie Soward shoot the ball to Will Smith, who darted his way past a defender to score. A successful Soward conversion locked the score up at 6-6.
The remainder of the first half saw both teams run consistently hard sets from end to end. A desperate Manly side sought to attack down the left but failed to draw holes in the relentless Panthers defence.
The closing moments saw Zach Dockar-Clay clean up a dangerous Feleti Mateo grubber and send the sides head to sheds level on the scoreboard.
HALFTIME - PEN 6 – MAN 6
Penrith opened the second half by dominating field position, edging their way close to the posts. Captain Smith displayed insane agility as he dodged and darted around a frantic Manly defence in the 42nd minute.
However dropped balls at crucial moments continued to foil early efforts made by the home side to creep ahead.
Play continued to travel from one end to the other with both teams desperate for points. Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards had the crowd on their feet as he broke clear on an impressive 50-metre run.
Finally, the home side were able to snap the deadlock with Sione Katoa offloading to Smith who bagged his second try of the game in the 71st minute. Soward was able to convert to push his side ahead 12-6.
Riding the momentum, Edwards sent the ball back into the hands of Will Smith who plunged over the line in the 76th minute. Soward put the Panthers further in front, 18-6.
Dockar-Clay followed suit only minutes later, beating a depleted Manly defence to cross in the 79th minute. Soward provided another successful conversion to ice the victory.
FULLTIME - PEN 24 – MAN 6