Manly have sprung the mother of all upsets with an 18-10 win over Penrith at Panthers Stadium, only to have their breakthrough victory soured by the sight of Dylan Walker being carried off with a patella injury.
In a contest featuring 29 errors and not a whole lot else until its final stages, Walker's return froma broken jaw lasted just 47 minutes before he was caught awkwardly in a tackle while pressing the Panthers line.
The Manly medical staff were able to clear the former NSW utility of what would have been a season-ending ACL injury in their initial assessment, but the full extent of Walker's latest issue will only be known with scans in the coming days.
"We're not too sure, we think he just got a bit of contact in the knee," Sea Eagles head of high performance Dan Ferris said after the gutsy win.
"He's got a bit of swelling, but all his ligaments are fine, we've tested them and they're all good. But we'll have to get rid of the swelling and get some scans on Monday."
The Panthers themselves lost Nathan Cleary to the sin-bin when he held opposite number Daly Cherry-Evans off the ball in pursuit of a 65th minute grubber.
Clinging on to a 12-10 lead, Sea Eagles big men Marty Taupau and Jake Trbojevic combined at the line, with the latter's offload in traffic sending Trent Hodkinson in for the match-winner and just their third win from their last 12 games in the Telstra Premiership.
Match: Panthers v Sea Eagles
Round 16 -
Venue: Panthers Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Penrith's lacklustre showing was compounded by a late injury to Fijian back-rower Viliame Kikau, who was floored when the head of Sea Eagles rookie Manase Fainu collided with his right knee.
The fumbles and frustrations flowed from the outset, as Manly took almost nine minutes to complete a set with errors in fashion and Penrith winger Christian Crichton joining the trend on his own line.
Joel Thompson showed his teammates how far a little ball control went, stepping his way over for a 6-2 lead, Penrith's first points coming from a James Maloney penalty goal a few minutes earlier.
With the first run from the kickoff though Marty Taupau erred once more and Penrith had themselves an overlap in quick time, only for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak's final pass to go astray and the chance amount to nothing.
A Daly Cherry-Evans bomb went the same way at the other end when Matt Wright knocked on in the air.
As Manly dominated the ruck and Penrith's error count mounted, Dean Whare summed up their early woes by piloting a cut out ball into the touch judge on one of the Panthers rare attacking raids.
Fittingly their first try came when there was little chance of a ball being spilled, Watene-Zelezniak running like a front-rower and turning Manly's flimsy goal line defence to mincemeat.
James Fisher-Harris stuck to the script straight after halftime, coughing up possession and putting Penrith under the pump from the kick-off.
Tom Trbojevic put the Sea Eagles back in front immediately with a cut-out ball for Wright, whose spectacular touchdown ended his afternoon early with a AC injury to his shoulder as he landed.
Wright returned to the sideline but did take the field again, with Walker sending the Sea Eagles into a cold sweat soon after.
Penrith had their opportunities attacking Manly's line but made little of them, settling for another Maloney penalty goal and a 10-10 deadlock with just over 20 minutes to go.
Hodkinson then edged the Sea Eagles back in front with the penalty goal resulting from Cleary's sin-binning before crossing himself in the 71st minute, inflicting Penrith's first loss at the foot of the mountains this season.
News and Notes: Crowd: 12,755, who to a man gave retired Panthers hooker Peter Wallace a standing ovation in his official farewell to Penrith fans before kickoff ... Marty Taupau only played 36 minutes after his delayed return from the Denver Test, but he made them count with 16 runs for 148 metres and six tackle busts... This is Manly's first win at the foot of the mountains since 2011, with Daly Cherry-Evans the only player remaining from that victory... Penrith's loss sees them drift four points behind ladder leaders St. George Illawarra, with the Rabbitohs a chance of claiming outright second place if they beat the Cowboys on Sunday... Manly have the bye in round 17 before hosting Melbourne, while Penrith are back at the foot of the mountains next Friday to take on the Warriors.