A clinical-though-not-outstanding Manly dismantled an ordinary-to-poor Penrith on a dewy surface at CUA Stadium on Saturday night.
Penrith didn’t stop trying and with a bit of luck and better execution might have stretched Manly further. Coach Matt Elliott won’t have been peeling paint from the walls – but he won’t have been overly enthused by the skills.
The Sea Eagles will be pretty happy with the two points. They didn’t play wonderfully attractive footy but did the little things generally well, ran hard and straight, and were physical in defence. Indeed defence won them this game.
Wasn’t much of a game; both teams’ handling wasn’t superb. But then they will play games on wet parks at night time.
The Game Swung When… In the 63rd minute, his side up 20-6, David ‘The Wolfman’ Williams pulled off a contender for cover-tackle of the year. After Nathan Smith intercepted a Chris Bailey pass, he threw the ball back inside for Frank Pritchard who did well to promote the ball up-field before dishing to Lachlan Coote who sped into space like a missile with peach-fuzz. With Williams in hot pursuit, Coote swerved and seemed to have wrong-footed his chaser, the Wolfman seeming to wobble on his legs. Coote darted for the corner… but the Wolfman came again. He crash-tackled Coote over the corner flag, bundled him over the sideline and crushed Panther hopes of a comeback.
Five minutes after half-time, on the back of some big hard charges by Luke Perry and Anthony Watmough, Michael Robertson grubbered ahead before the ball came off a Panthers leg and deflected to first-gamer Ben Farrar, who scooped up the pill and crashed over carrying a couple of pink men with him.
Minutes later Farrar made a nice bust down the right, picking up David Williams who took it downfield. The Sea Eagles promoted the ball well and Matt Orford grubbered in-goal and the visitors had a drop-out.
In the next set, Watmough ran brilliantly at a hole, stormed onto a nice Orford pass and went over for a fine four-pointer. Orford converted, the Eagles had a 14-point lead, and neither side scored again.
Two minutes before half-time Penrith attacked down the right before Luke Walsh popped a beautiful ball for Trent Waterhouse to stream through the line and break through a Steve Matai (yep: Steve Matai) tackle. Waterhouse found Nathan Smith backing up on the inside and the lock went under the posts. Fine try.
In the 27th minute, with Manly up 8-nil, Chris Bailey put up a wobbly looking bomb that bobbled about on the Panthers’ 20-metre line. Maurice Blair made a mess of it and the Sea Eagles had six tackles. They almost scored in the corner through David Williams but Coote made a brilliant covering tackle and denied the Wolfman.
Who Was Hot… David Williams ran hard and fast and caught the high-ball well while his fellow wing-man Tony Williams made plenty of yards, scored a blockbusting try and should have had another.
Mat Orford had a typically good game with the boot and set up two tries.
Props Luke Perry, Brent Kite and Jason King had big games for the Sea Eagles, sharing the workload and being dynamic in defence.
Manly’s best, though, was Watmough who had a game-high 17 runs for 162 metres, scored the game-breaking try, offloaded three times, broke nine tackles and made 25 tackles.
As usual Petero Civoniceva tried hard (16 runs, 108 metres, 40 tackles) as did tyro fullback Coote who showed some classy touches.
Who Was Not… Pretty poor performance across the board from the Panthers. They didn’t get enough penetration from back-rowers Trent Waterhouse (16 runs, 91 metres), Frank Pritchard (nine runs, 80 metres) and Nathan Smith (14 runs, 94 metres) – though Waterhouse and Smith did have to make 86 tackles between them.
Passes went forward or to team-mates’ knees. It was a bit dewy and slippery at CUA Stadium, but the handling was not first grade standard.
Jarrad Sammut made too many errors (four) including a play-the-ball that went forwards, somehow.
Indeed the play-the-ball was one area the Panthers were poor in, turning the ball over three times in this basic, fundamental skill set of rugby league.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Pinkest footy jumpers ever from the Panthers, with Jarrod Sammut going one better and adding pink boots.
Best pink beard in league history by Wolfman Williams, with Glenn Stewart providing nice support with a pink handlebar.
All the Panthers sported beards (which were shaved off the morning after). They looked like a squad of huge hillbillies.
Panthers hooker Paul Aiton was picked up and hammered by Watmough in a classic, crunching tackle.
And then there was the Wolfman’s cover tackle. Track it down on NRL.com if you haven’t seen it. Great rugby league.
Bad Boys… None.
Refs Watch… The home crowd were fairly vocal in their condemnation of the officials but the two refs were pretty good. They could make a good case for all their decisions.
Except one, a clanger by Jason Robinson. Standing with the defence behind a scrum, Manly feed, Robinson ordered the defence to “go” before the ball was out of the scrum. Wade Graham took Robinson at his word but was pinged for being offside by Tony De Las Heras.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles): Huge involvement, tough defence, penetrative attack. Did everything but referee. A blue jumper awaits; 2 points – David Williams (Manly): Ran hard and straight and wouldn’t look out of place in blue, either; 1 point – Jason King (Manly): The bedrock of his team’s defence.
Sea Eagles 20 (T Williams B Farrar, A Watmough, tries; M Orford 4 goals) def Panthers 6 (N Smith try; L Walsh goal) at CUA Stadium. Crowd: 15,806.