A first-half masterclass from Penrith Captain Matt Moylan has propelled Penrith to a 36-6 victory against the Manly Sea Eagles on Sunday Night.
The Panthers ran riot in the opening half of the game, scoring 30-unanswered points in devastating fashion to show they are ready to take on the NRL’s best.
Missing three of their mainstays from the last decade in Jamie Lyon, Brett Stewart and Steve Matai, a depleted Manly line-up would have headed to Pepper Stadium hoping for a respectable result. But the in-form Panthers showed their strength across the park and signalled their intentions to head into next Sunday’s Elimination Final against the Bulldogs brimming with confidence.
Penrith put the heat on the Sea Eagles early into the game with a neatly-positioned grubber kick from Matt Moylan, earning them a repeat set in the first five minutes.
That had them on the attack and sure enough they were over the line after just a few tackles. Moylan again played a hands-on role, passing the ball to Penrith’s leading try-scorer, Josh Mansour, who put the ball down just moments before going over the sideline. With Cleary’s conversion, Penrith took a 6-0 lead in the 5th minute.
Manly were given a reprieve after the kick-off when they were awarded consecutive penalties which marched them up the field. It looked like Brayden Wiliame had grabbed their first try, but a video referral found his foot had gone just a few inches outside the field of play.
It took until the 20th minute for the next try to come, and it was the Panther’s fullback who was again awarded the try-assist with a brilliantly-executed short ball to Bryce Cartwright who scored on the right edge. Cleary nailed the kick to make it 12-0 midway through the first half.
Within two minutes and from the kick-off, the Panthers were in again when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak finished a 70-metre break started by his inside centre Waqa Blake. Cleary booted his way to 100 points in first grade for the year when he converted to make it 18-0.
The party in Penrith was in full-swing in the 26th minute when Moylan again through the killer-pass. Peter Wallace was the willing recipient and he slid straight in under the posts, giving Cleary the easiest kick he’d have all day to extend the lead to 24-0.
Despite giving away seven penalties in the opening forty minutes to potentially invite Manly back into the match, Penrith’s discipline with the ball was perfect, holding a 100% completion rate.
Their sweet first half was capped off when Josh Mansour bagged his 2nd try, right on the half-time hooter. Mansour grabbed hold of a bouncing Bryce Cartwright kick to plant the ball down in the corner. Cleary put a stamp on it to make it five-from-five and signal the Panthers intentions to enter the NRL Finals bursting with confidence.
Halftime: Panthers 30 Sea Eagles 0
Penrith were the first to open the scoring after the break, and it was Waqa Blake who crashed over for the 5th consecutive game in a row. Cleary’s kept his perfect record to make it 36 unanswered points for the Panthers.
Blake was in the thick of it just minutes later, making a bustling run down the right side but he was unable to come up with a result.
Rising Manly forward Jake Trbojevic secured a four-pointer for the visitors in the 61st minute, scoring under the posts. Matt Wright kicked with ease to make the score 36-6 with just under 20 minutes left to play.
Manly began to retain most of the possession and Penrith could have been forgiven for clocking off early with next week on their minds, but to their credit they dug their heels in and kept the score line as it was.
A scrappy try looked to have eventuated for Penrith in the 75th minute, but through half-a-dozen pair of hands trying to collect the ball off the ground, the Bunker found a knock-on.
Fulltime: Panthers 36 Sea Eagles 6
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