Dallin Watene Zelezniak of the Panthers (left) takes a bomb and goes over to score.
Dallin Watene Zelezniak of the Panthers (left) takes a bomb and goes over to score. CRAIG GOLDING

Panthers revive finals hopes by downing Sea Eagles

PENRITH'S season has drawn breath just as fans feared it was on its deathbed.

With the Panthers struggling to break into finals contention on the back of an underwhelming campaign to date, the team put Manly to the sword 16-8 to earn two competition points and keep its chances alive.

It came on the back of a staggering 12-4 penalty count that boiled the blood of Sea Eagles skipper Daly Cherry-Evans.

Still burning from his shock omission from the Queensland side earlier in the week, Cherry-Evans vented his frustration towards referee Henry Perenara, who threatened to use the sin bin a number of times throughout the lopsided contest.

He didn't, but there's no doubt Manly was hugely disadvantaged - by their own doing - as they continually handed Penrith cheap ball in prime attacking position.

For Penrith, its seventh win of the season might just be the turning point it's been looking for.

An upset victory over the top-four outfit could kick Anthony Griffin's men into gear and inspire them to feature in finals.

It came a week after a 42-14 loss to South Sydney had punters and pundits writing them off as also-rans.

Penrith capitalised on an early Manly mistake and penalty, with James Tamou powering his way to the line on the back of consecutive sets inside 20 metres after just a few minutes.

Eight minutes later it was a beautiful Daly Cherry-Evans cutout ball that put Dylan Walker through a hole and over the line up the other end of the field.

Manly had forced consecutive dropouts and earned three repeat sets to put the pressure on Penrith and eventually crack the defensive wall.

 

Martin Taupau of the Eagles is tackled by Nathan Cleary of the Panthers.
Martin Taupau of the Eagles is tackled by Nathan Cleary of the Panthers. CRAIG GOLDING

The Panthers then had a heap of possession in attacking position, thanks in large to a string of Manly penalties.

After half an hour the penalty count was 8-2 in favour of Penrith, and Perenara warned the Sea Eagles to rein it in.

The Panthers forced a dropout and earned another set on the back of an Akuila Uate drop.

Finally, in the 36th minute, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak flew high and grounded a Nathan Cleary kick to score the much-needed try and extend the lead.

The try was a contentious one, however, as the NRL Bunker awarded it despite the fact Penrith teammate Waqa Blake had possession first and seemed to transfer the ball to Watene-Zelezniak.

Penrith led 12-4 at the break.

Manly finally got a penalty of its own just five minutes back from half-time and it capitalised immediately.

Cherry-Evans ran the ball and offloaded to Shaun Lane who offloaded to Tom Trbojevic to score and make it 12-8.

A stunning 70-metre kick return from Watene-Zelezniak and a subsequent penalty earned Penrith another two points to extend the lead to 14-8 soon after.

Then, a minute later, Penrith was denied a try when the bunker judged Corey Harawira-Naera had knocked the ball forward into an opposition player, despite footage suggesting he was facing backwards.

Manly continued to give away penalties and with their 12th the Panthers slotted another conversion to make the lead eight points.

It was all they needed to get the job done.

News Corp Australia


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