The Penrith Panthers have continued their perfect start to the 2021 season with a hard-fought 28-16 win over the Manly Sea Eagles on Saturday afternoon.
Brian To’o was enormous in the victory, running for 233 metres, busting six tackles and scoring a try.
Meanwhile, James Fisher-Harris was inspiration in the middle with 198 metres and 31 tackles.
Stephen Crichton also impressed with a couple of critical stops in defence and scored the match-winning try.
As always Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai also put their stamp on the contest with a few classy try assists.
It was Manly who got the first points though, with Reuben Garrick kicking an early penalty goal.
That advantage did not last long though with To’o charging through the Manly defence before linking with Matt Burton who kicked ahead for Dylan Edwards to score a sensational team try.
Cleary then added the extras.
Edwards starts and finishes a Bathurst barnstormer
To’o then was rewarded with a try of his own. It all started with a break from Kurt Capewell before Luai threw a lovely long ball to the winger who soared over.
Cleary’s attempt at conversion went right of the posts.
Luai fires a pass to To'o who ducks under the defence
A confident Penrith side tried to find space out on the left edge but the offload went straight to Tom Trbojevic who raced away to score.
Garrick sent the conversion wide.
The Panthers though quickly regained ascendancy and Cleary double pumped before sending Liam Martin bursting through for Penrith’s third of the afternoon.
Cleary steered the kick through the posts to make it 16-6.
Deft pass from Cleary sends Martin over
HALF-TIME: Panthers 16 - Sea Eagles 6
The Sea Eagles hit back with the first try of the second half after Daly Cherry-Evans kicked at the padding and received a fortunate bounce.
He converted his own try to reduce the deficit to four.
Manly had all the running for the following five minutes but two crucial tackles – one from Crichton on Brad Parker and another from Tyrone May on Jake Trbojevic – ensured Penrith protected the lead.
That defensive resilience then resulted in points down the other end as May chased down a pinpoint Cleary kick.
Execution of try, spot on. Execution of celebration, needs work.
Penrith’s on-line defence came up trumps once more with a scrambling effort from Dylan Edwards on winger Garrick the highlight.
In a grinding second stanza it was still defence that won the day for the Panthers with Crichton once again impressing after a brilliant tackle around Brad Parker’s legs to deny a potential try.
There was little stopping a runaway Jason Saab though as he raced down the right sideline to set up a thrilling finish.
Cherry-Evans missed the conversion though, leaving the difference at six.
Crichton’s excellent defence was matched by his effort to be there in support to score a brilliant try to seal the win.
Dylan Edwards put through a grubber on the last and Liam Martin batted the ball back in spectacularly with Crichton on the spot to plant it down.
Miraculous Martin taps it back for Crichton
With the conversion the final difference was 12 points.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 28 - Sea Eagles 16