Sea Eagles v Panthers: Five key points

Rival fullbacks put on a show, injury curse strikes Penrith again, Manly's new powerhouse hitter and what else we learned from the Panthers' one-point win on Monday night.

 

Moylan's best game ever?

"I think personally tonight was Matt's best game," Panthers captain Jamie Soward declared after the match.

But did he mean this week, this year or over his whole career?

With the way the superstar fullback played, Soward could have certainly be referring to any of the above.

The highlight reel will show Moylan's perfect cut-out balls and game-winning, 39-metre field goal, but the best of the Penrith fullback was elsewhere. 

"I know he's got all the tricks and skills and passing but the way he brought the ball back tonight... [It] put us on the front foot pretty much all that second half," Soward said.

"It was really important to us, it shows just how tough he can play, and to slot the field goal was obviously a big play but I was more impressed with what he did [in other parts of his game]."

Moylan was also safe as houses cleaning up kicks at the back for Penrith, leading his coach to declare him Origin-ready.

"Matt will never let anyone down in any arena. Each game he goes into he tends to rise to the occasion," Ivan Cleary said. 

The Prince of Brookvale bags record-setting brace

His coach Geoff Toovey said Brett Stewart probably would have swapped his new record for a win against the Panthers. That may be true but for the 'Prince of Brookie' the Manly try-scoring record he set and extended against the Panthers still means a lot. 

He went agonisingly close to his 152nd career try in the second minute, but didn't have to wait much longer after his near miss as he backed up a Tom Symonds break in the third minute of the match to break Steve Menzies' record.

He was at it again in the 22nd to make it 153, but for some, that still isn't enough.

"He reckon it still sits at 181," Stewart said after the match, referring to Menzies' belief that the tries he scored for the Northern Eagles should count towards his overall Sea Eagles tally.

"Obviously not the result we wanted, but pretty proud moment for me to go past Beaver's record.

"It's something I don't think about too much, it was a pretty proud moment for me when I seen that up on the scoreboard after I scored it."

His coach Geoff Toovey added: "He should be very proud of that achievement, anyone that scores that many tries... it's a wonderful thing."

Panthers injury curse strikes again

While in some ways next week's bye has come at a bad time for the Panthers, they'll be keen to recover and regroup after yet another serious injury.

George Jennings was stretchered off in the 67th minute with what club doctors fear is a broken leg, adding to an already long list of injuries at the foot of the mountains.

However with the bye next week coach Cleary was confident of regaining some troops before their next match.

"Dean Whare, Peter Wallace, Josh Mansour. They're hopefully back next game. They're not too far away but we lost George Jennings for a while tonight so one goes in one goes out," Cleary said.

Cleary managed to find a silver lining to the injury crisis however, with some young players having some valuable game time in recent weeks.

"It's just good experience," he said. "They've had to carry the can more than we hoped with so many players missing at this point of the season."

Panthers defence covers for attacking weakness

With their attack significantly blunted because of injuries to key personnel, the Panthers had to turn to an intense attitude in defence to get the two points against Manly, especially after conceding 10 points in the opening 22 minutes.

Clearly said the defensive turnaround was essential in his team eventually being able to put points on the board.

"I thought [in the] second half our defence improved and we were able to build some pressure," he said.

"I'm really happy with our defence, we're not scoring a lot of points but tonight was our eighth halves pairing in 10 matches and it became nine during the game. "I've never seen anything like that so obviously coming in with that you lose a bit of synergy so our attack will only get better. Sometimes when you're not scoring points it puts more pressure on your defence so I feel like the boys are really hanging in and working hard there."

Captain Jamie Soward agreed that the defence lifted as the match wore on.

"I thought our defence in the second half came out and showed a real intensity that we probably lacked in the first half," he said.

Trbojevic a powerhouse hitter

He's been impressing many since debuting in the top grade earlier this year and against the Panthers Jake Trbojevic seemed to reach a new level of intensity with his defence. 

The local junior was constantly the first making the tackle on kick chase and was cutting the big Panthers forwards down with powerful low tackles.

He made 30 tackles in limited minutes and they were all bruising.

"He played really well," Panthers forward Sika Manu said.

"He was really solid and really aggressive. We knew he was a tough player and we tried to shut him down but he just kept coming the whole night."