Table topping Penrith Panthers were in Sydney at Lottoland to take on a Manly Sea Eagles who were looking for a win to get themselves back into the top eight. A Penrith win would ensure that the ended the round in top spot but any slip-up would open the door for the Storm and the Eels to step above them.
The Sea Eagles had Walker and Keppie in their line-up, while the Panthers made four changes bringing in Koroisau, Staines, Kikau and Tetavano.
The Panthers were clear favourites to take the points but the Sea Eagles were keen to spoil the party, just as they did against the Eels a couple of weeks ago.
An obstruction against the Panthers, chasing a kick towards the Sea Eagles line, gifted good field position and on the third tackle new Penrith sensation Charlie Staines went for the line and slid over with two tacklers on his back to open the scoring on seven minutes. Nathan Cleary was unable to add the touchline conversion.
The Panthers got their second, after a favourable decision from the bunker, after Isaah Yeo rolled over the line and got the ball on the ground on the third attempt. Cleary kicked the conversion for a 10-0 lead on seventeen minutes.
Charlie Staines got his second of the game, and his sixth in the first one hundred and five minutes of his career, as he took the pass and accelerated over ten metres to score acrobatically in the corner. Cleary managed to sneak his kick over the cross-bar for 16-0. Staines picked up an injury in the act of scoring and went off, taking no further part in the game.
On twenty-eight the Panthers employed the other wing as Stephen Crichton was given the ball in plenty of space for a walk-in try. Cleary had his kicking boots on as he slotted over the extras for 22-0 after thirty minutes. The Sea Eagles had no answer to the Panthers questions.
The Sea Eagles finally broke their duck on thirty-three with Jake Trbojevic spinning out of the tackle to ground under the crossbar. Reuben Garrick kicked the simple conversion for 6-22.
Brent Naden intercepted a pass on his own two metres and went al the way to the Manly ten metre line before being hauled down. As the hooter sounded for half time, Cleary kicked the penalty for a 24-6 half time lead.
A kick-collect from Nathan Cleary on fifty was the first try of the second half as the Manly full back slipped and gifted the half-back a walk-in try. He added the conversion for 30-6, there was now no way back for the Sea Eagles.
George Taufua was on hand on fifty-eight to collect a low cross-field kick from Daly Cherry-Evans and walk over to score in the left corner. Garrick drilled his touchline kick between the uprights for 12-30-12.
The sixth Penrith try was a team effort with the ball ending in the hands of Naden to use the space his team-mates had earned him and cross in the right corner. Cleary converted from wide, his fifth goal of the night, for 36-12.
The forty was brought up by Koroisau who took the pass from a jinking Jarome Luai to go ten to score under the posts. Cleary added a sixth goal for 42-12.
The Panthers were in devastating form as they guaranteed that they will end round twelve at the top of the NRL ladder. It wasn’t that Manly were poor, they simply didn’t have enough possession and field position to be able to make any impact against a Penrith side who have set our their stall for a Grand Final appearance.
Manly Sea Eagles: Elliot. Taufua (T), Parker, Suli, Garrick (2G), Walker, Cherry-Evans, Fonua-Blake, Levi, Taupau, Thompson, Sironen, Trbojevic (T). Subs: Croker, Waddell, Keppie, Paseka.
Penrith Panthers: Aekins, Mansour, Naden (T), Crichton (T), Staines (2T), Luai, Cleary (T, 6G), Tamou, Koroisau (T), Fisher-Harris, Kikau, Martin, Yeo (T). Subs: May, Leniu, Leota, Tetevano.
Referee: Gerrard Sutton.
Ground: Lottoland, Sydney.