Liam Martin dives over to score a try in a man-of-the-match performance. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Liam Martin dives over to score a try in a man-of-the-match performance. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Cubs breathe life into Penrith’s season

IT may have lacked firepower, but Thursday night's clash between Penrith and Manly contained plenty of fire and fight.

Two rag-tag teams managed to give the 7981 fans that braved the cold at the foot of the mountains a grandstand finish after the Panthers almost surrendered a 15-0 lead.

Despite missing star halfback Nathan Cleary to Origin and losing Viliame Kikau just before kick-off, the Panthers still managed a hard-fought 15-12 win over the Sea Eagles.

Des Hasler's men were just as depleted after adding boom outside back Brad Parker to the injury ward last week with a broken jaw and being without Origin representatives Jake Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans.

Makeshift halves combination Cade Cust and Kane Elgey tried but struggled to convert possession into points and made key mistakes.

Trailing by nine points with seven minutes left on the clock, the Sea Eagles were caught with the ball on the last.

But Sea Eagles Des Hasler was impressed with Cust's offering over the last couple of weeks.

"We had some opportunities in the second but they were better than us in the ruck in the first half. But it was pleasing to see the way we hung in there and a few things started to work for us. There were opportunities we could have taken and we didn't. Two points, during the origin period, are important for side to make their move," Hasler said.

Penrith have won back-to-back games for the first time this season. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.
Penrith have won back-to-back games for the first time this season. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

In the 52nd minutes, tensions finally boiled over when Jarome Luai overreacted to a high tackle from Jack Gosiewski. The referee marched both players for 10 minutes in the bin.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary described the incident as nothing but "handbags".

It was closer than it should have been at the end for Cleary's side, but they survived the late surge to register consecutive wins for the first time this year.

MALONEY'S MESSAGE

After being axed from the NSW side despite last year leading them to their first series win since 2014, James Maloney played like he had a point to prove at Panthers Stadium.

Wearing the No.7 jersey, he took on the line with plenty of purpose early and combined well with Frank Winterstein on the left edge. Maloney came up just short of the try line on one run, and threatened to land the killer blow late in the game.

Jarome Luai is continuing Penrith’s fine tradition of producing young talent. Picture: Getty
Jarome Luai is continuing Penrith’s fine tradition of producing young talent. Picture: Getty

JAROME FREE

Where Maloney couldn't deliver, Jarome Luai could. In the number six jumper, Luai was menacing every time he touched the ball. His passing was in fine touch and helped create Penrith's first try, combining with hard-running forward Liam Martin and fullback Dylan Edwards, who eventually crossed the stripe.

He also had a hand, or a boot rather in Penrith's second try. Luai put in a perfectly weighted deft kick for Martin, who scored only his second career try.

INJECTION OF YOUTH

Anchored at the bottom of the ladder, Cleary was forced to make changes to his struggling side. He handed local juniors Martin, Mitch Kenny and Brian To'o NRL debuts in 2019 and their inclusions have added a much-needed boost of enthusiasm both in defence and in attack.

Martin's performance made all the more impressive considering the fact he played in the Canterbury Cup on Sunday.

"He [Martin] played four days ago, he was terrific tonight. When I rang him this morning, hearing his voice how excited he was. Funnily enough, I see him more of a middle player but the way it turned out tonight I threw him on the edge and he might be staying there," Cleary said.

PRE-GAME DRAMA

Penrith lost their most potent attacking weapon, Viliame Kikau, to illness just two hours before kick-off.

Hasler also had a personnel scare with Manase Fainu breaking his nose during the warm-up and needing to leave the field for medical staff to quickly patch him up. He emerged from the sheds looking like Hannibal Lecter to take his spot on the bench.

Fainu was in the wars. AAP Image/Dean Lewins.
Fainu was in the wars. AAP Image/Dean Lewins.

EDWARDS IMPRESSES

In March, Dylan Edwards looked like the shadow of the player he promised to be as he struggled to find his feet in first grade. Edwards missed most of 2018 with a shoulder injury and then returned this year devoid of all the confidence he had previously shown. He made error after error and struggled with the high ball.

Cleary dropped him to Canterbury Cup after round five, where he spent four weeks rebuilding that confidence. On Thursday night, it returned. Edwards ran for 199 metres, made four tackle busts and scored a try.

TAUPAU TARGETED

Manly powerhouse forward Martin Taupau was a marked man on Thursday night. Taupau's number were impressive, he ran for 146 metres and had 61 post-contact metres but still the Panthers managed to dull his impact in attack.

Penrith's defence had clearly done their homework on the prolific offloader. Every time he handled the ball there were Panthers defenders applying plenty of pressure. Their pressure in rushing the line to get to Taupau forced two errors in the first half alone.

PENRITH 15 (D Edwards L Martin tries J Maloney 3 goals J Maloney field goal) bt MANLY 12 (C Cust M Fainu tries R Garrick 2 goals) at Panthers Stadium. Referee: Ben Cummins, Peter Gough

News Corp Australia


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