Panthers v Sea Eagles: Five key points
The Panthers rallied late to overcome the Sea Eagles in an injury pagued contest. Here are five things we learned.
It was Penrith's best defensive output this year
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said his side's defensive pressure and energy against Manly on Saturday night was the best it's been over the opening six rounds of the season.
"We probably haven't done that enough this year, where we've been able to build our game upon a decent defensive foundation – certainly [not] for a few weeks anyway," he said.
"I thought that was the case tonight, particularly in the first half, when they had quite a few sets on our goal line.
"[They] came up with a good try off a kick, but the fact they took the two points before halftime I thought was a good win for us, because it showed that we were putting up some resistance. It's always good to see."
Manly's depth is being severely tested
First half injuries to Tom Trbojevic (high ankle sprain) and Jesse Sene-Lefao (AC joint) meant the Sea Eagles finished played the entire second half with just 15 men.
Having already used up 25 players this season – they used just 28 all last year – coach Geoff Toovey said he couldn't remember the last time the club had endured such a horrific injury toll.
"I can't recall for my recent history at the club, [but] as I said, that's no excuse," he said.
However, he did admit that he was concerned about the effect their growing casualty ward would have on their finals hopes.
"I'm always concerned from the first round. But we've got plans in place," he said. "It's some difficult times over the last couple of weeks, we've had a lot of injuries. I think we normally use 23-24 players throughout a year and we've already gotten to 25 this year already. It's been hard, but that's no excuse. We just have to work twice as hard."
Toovey said skipper Jamie Lyon and fullback Brett Stewart were a chance to return next week, while Feleti Mateo is at least another fortnight away.
Cleary dropped the hammer on John
Back-up playmaker Isaac John admitted to being dropped by Cleary after a poor performance against the Roosters in Round 3, and was told in no uncertain terms where to improve.
"It's a few personal things, I don't want to throw it out there. I thought they were fair, so that's all you need to know," John told NRL.com.
"After the Roosters game I got dropped and Ivan gave me a few things to work on and I think I have done that in NSW Cup. I thought I played well so I came in confident.
"It was a bit of a slap on the wrist. Sometimes you need it. Sometimes you think you're going alright when you're actually not. I think Ivan's always been that one who's able to steer me straight and put me back online. He just gave me a couple of things to work on. I'm still working on them, to be honest."
Together with Api Koroisau, John will be relied upon by Cleary to keep Penrith's season afloat in the absence of regular halves pair Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace.
Toovey wants to speak out
Toovey called on NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg to relax the laws surrounding coaches commentating on referees after a second half where his side was caned 5-1 in the penalty count.
"This is an issue as well, which Todd Greenberg needs to address. I brought it up pre-season that: If we can't address the situation in regards to the referees, then what can we do?" he said.
The Sea Eagled held a 5-3 advantage in penalties at halftime before being forced to defend their line for large portions of the second half.
"To be in front, and then for some strange reason to have five penalties in a row go against you... and then the match swung around," he said.
"So we were in front, and then all of a sudden, a massive quantum of ball was given to the Panthers and they took the opportunity. We had to defend them better, but it's very difficult under those circumstances."
Taylor is captaincy material
He may not be a local junior, but the Panthers see lock Elijah Taylor as a future captain of the club, and it was easy to see why on Saturday night.
One week after making a ridiculous 76 tackles against the Cowboys, the former Warrior saved a certain try when he knocked the ball from Kieran Foran with the tryline begging early in the first half and was there to help clean up a bomb not long after that.
Even when he came off with a knee injury, he was still seen barking orders from the bench.
"You ask anyone in our team, he's almost the backbone of our pack and our team. His work ethic in terms of preparation is second to none. That's why he makes a great leader," teammate Isaac John said.
"Actions speak louder than words and if that's the case, he's shouting from a mountaintop."