The Panthers were relentless in a high-quality season-opening 28-6 win over the Sea Eagles, comfortably covering the loss of star half Nathan Cleary to start their premiership defence in style.
After two early no-tries due to obstruction, Penrith finally made some early dominance count when young centre Izack Tago carried four defenders over the line in the 19th minute.
His centre partner Stephen Crichton crossed in the 31st but with a 12-0 halftime lead in the offing Penrith clocked off for a moment on the stroke of half time and Tom Trbojevic capitalised on some broken play to set up Ethan Bullemor for his first try in Manly colours.
Jarome Luai profited from a Viliame Kikau offload to make it 18-6 early in the second half and Api Koroisau burrowed over from dummy-half in the 56th minute.
With full-time looming, the Panthers cracked Manly once more with Liam Martin bagging a well-earned try two minutes from full-time.
Match: Panthers v Sea Eagles
Round 1 -
Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
Penrith picked up where they left off last year even without injured star Nathan Cleary while Manly tried hard but just couldn't find a way out of their own end in the opening match of the season.
- Penrith easily could have been out to a big early lead but a try to Stephen Crichton was pulled back due to an obstruction run from Liam Martin in the fifth minute, while Brian To'o's attempted four-pointer shortly after was given no-try on-field for running behind Jarome Luai.
- Isaah Yeo had a monster game to start the year, with his ball-playing through the middle causing some huge headaches and his offload leading to Penrith's opening try.
- Tom Trbojevic was kept remarkably quiet by a relentless Panthers outfit for almost the entire first half but came up with a critical play to set up a try on the stroke of half time.
Izack Tago gets the first try for the Panthers
- Both Panthers centres, Stephen Crichton and Izack Tago, were a huge threat. Tago nabbed the coveted left edge role and showed great footwork in the opening try while Crichton did likewise for his team's second.
- Sean O'Sullivan did an excellent job standing in for the injured Nathan Cleary, kicking well and not attempting to overplay his hand.
- Luckless Manly utility forward Karl Lawton came on for Lachlan Croker late in the first half and copped a hip to the head in his first tackle, requiring a HIA that subsequently ruled him out of the match.
- Panthers prop Moses Leota was taken off with a possible shoulder injury in the final minute of the match.
- Haumole Olakau'atu was placed on report for a late tackle on Scott Sorensen; the penalty allowed Penrith to move from 6-0 to 8-0 ahead but is unlikely to see him miss game time.
Play of the Game
It didn't end up earning them the win but Manly's try on the stroke of half-time was a real highlight reel effort. With Penrith seemingly ready to head for the sheds, a Manly side that had been under the pump for a full 40 minutes found some space in unlikely fashion with Jake Trbojevic going from dummy half inside his own 40. He found Kieran Foran who did well to help Tom Trbojevic in a bit of space, with the star fullback drawing the last line of defence before sending ex-Bronco Bullemor galloping away to the line to give his side a huge lift going into the break.
Bullemor finishes off a Sea Eagles sucker punch
What they said
"I know it's the first game of the season but we just weren’t clinical enough and didn’t give ourselves a chance with field position ... I thought we did pretty well at 12-6 (at half time) but the second half we had to compete better. That’s what we'll take away from tonight." - Manly coach Des Hasler.
"[I was happy] with our discipline and sticking to the plan. We missed one minute before half-time but other than that I thought we did just what we wanted to. There were things in attack we could improve at and you expect that anyway, you don't expect your best game in round one. Defensively I thought we were really good and every player did a job." - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.
The Panthers travel to Kogarah in round two for a Friday 6pm meeting with the Dragons at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium as they look to back up a grand final win with a 2-0 start to the season.
The Sea Eagles take part in the second Friday game with a blockbuster SCG clash against the Roosters. It's another very tough clash to start the year with Des Hasler's men needing to improve to avoid a 0-2 start to 2022.