Taupau defies jet lag to demolish Panthers
A jet-lagged, fatigued and cranky Marty Taupau took it upon himself to back up after a week spent in transit and take it out on Penrith's defence, spearheading Manly's gutsy 18-10 win with only 15 fit men.
Taupau's 36 minutes against the Panthers were well down on his regular output but he made every one of them count, finishing with six tackle busts, 16 runs and 148 running metres – the most of any player on the paddock.
Up until Friday Manly were still ready to rest the Kiwi powerhouse after his return from last weekend's Denver Test was delayed by 48 hours, the majority of which he spent in airports trying to get himself home.
With the New Zealand Test team flight out of Colorado held up by an electrical storm and Taupau's next flight cancelled due to mechanical issues, the Manly big man touched down at San Francisco airport at 2am on Wednesday (US time) and then returned several hours early for his next flight to Australia, determined not to miss it.
Taupau arrived home at 6am on Thursday and was cleared for take-off at their team captain's run, ultimately leading the Sea Eagles to their first win in five games against a Penrith side entrenched in the top four.
"In the end it was more mental. We knew he was going to be quite fatigued, we knew he was going to be not fresh mentally," Manly's head of high performance Dan Ferris said.
"But we just had to put it aside. For him to come out and put on the display he did today it was quite incredible.
"To Marty's credit he put up his hand straight away. We wanted to give him some extra time off, but he said he wanted to get as much preparation as he could. He put his hand up."
For Manly coach Trent Barrett the relief from upsetting Penrith was palpable, delivering the Silvertails' first win at the foot of the mountains since 2011.
That they got by without Dylan Walker (patella) and Matt Wright (shoulder) for much of the second half after a drama-filled past month pleased the coach to no end, with a bye in round 17 allowing for the likes of Taupau and a bulging casualty ward a fortnight of rest and recovery.
"It was really gutsy," Barrett said.
"It wasn't pretty. We turned over a lot of footy. But we hung in and hung in and hung in.
"I'm just really proud of the players that they've stuck together over the past month. It's been difficult.
"There's a lot of relief too. We have worked really hard at training and it hasn't been reflected in how we've played.
"You can never fault their effort and just to get that first win in a while just gives us a lot to look forward to at the back end of the season."
Skipper Daly Cherry-Evans remains hopeful that he will see some footy this week, with Queensland to name their side for Origin III on Sunday night.
After Ben Hunt's forgettable showing in game two and the Blues' series win, Cherry-Evans is back in the frame for a Maroons recall, particularly if Newcastle's Kalyn Ponga is ruled out with a hamstring injury sustained against Canterbury.
"Every game I wait by the phone so we'll what happens," Cherry-Evans said.