Sea Eagles 30 Panthers 0
Cherry and Choc delight ... Anthony Watmough scores after a kick from Daly Cherry-Evans. Photo: Steve Christo
There is little difference between any side in the premiership, and last night was no different. The main difference was critical though: Manly took their chances while Penrith blew theirs.
Manly's performance will not be feted as their best this season, but they knew how to grind out a win even after three consecutive losses and the absence of well over a million dollars of talent.
Daly Cherry-Evans of the Sea Eagles is tackled by Michael Jennings of the Panthers. Photo: Getty Images
Some of the players with smaller pay cheques were instrumental: fullback Dean Whare, five-eighth Liam Foran, second-rower Jamie Buhrer and, of course, halfback Daly Cherry-Evans, whose infamous $85,000 salary for this season had created such a stir in these parts. The Sea Eagles won for the first time since Cherry-Evans's contract was upgraded, in their first home outing.
They are a different side at the ground - especially when their halfback is humming.
The match was a lesson in taking your opportunities. The Panthers had the better of much of the first half, but couldn't convert. The Sea Eagles were down on personnel, and were disjointed early on as a result, but they took advantage of the chances they had.
Manly's David Williams. Photo: Getty Images
The Sea Eagles will take much from this win. That they can still win without Glenn and Brett Stewart, Kieran Foran and Tony Williams says much about the depth of their squad and the depth of their character. Enter the likes of Buhrer, Whare and Liam Foran, the latter not having played first grade for almost four years.
Foran had previously played just three NRL matches. They all came in 2008, for Melbourne, when the Storm were struck by their annual State of Origin drain. A switch to the Warriors the following year, and then a move to the Roosters' feeder club Newtown, proved fruitless when it came to first-grade, so he joined his brother Kieran at Manly. Last night, he replaced Kieran, who had been ruled out with a hamstring injury.
The Sea Eagles had also lost another strike player in fullback Brett Stewart, who can usually be relied on for a try or two at Brookvale. An upset was, thus, on the cards.
How it failed to appear on the scoreboard was peculiar. The Sea Eagles were out of sorts in the early stages, silencing their own crowd by losing cheap possession.
The Panthers should have taken an early lead, however their own profligacy cost them: centre Michael Jennings's ball to Lachlan Coote was spilt with nothing but the tryline in front of the fullback.
Manly were hoping a night at Brookvale would set them back on their path after their recent stutters, and back-rower Buhrer eventually got them going with a 26th-minute try to open the account.
Buhrer also provided the catalyst for Manly's next points, unintentionally; Travis Burns's high shot on the back-rower gave centre Jamie Lyon a comfortable shot at penalty goal. Burns was placed on report for his troubles.
Penrith were again cursing their wastefulness early in the second half. Even more critically, their mistake - a poor pass from winger David Simmons to hooker Kevin Kingston - came at their own end. The Sea Eagles, through winger David Williams, were quick to take advantage.
When Etu Uaisele was miraculously held up by Whare, it was another opportunity lost. By this stage, Penrith knew they had missed their chance. You don't get many against the premiers.
MANLY 30 (D Williams 2 J Buhrer S Matai A Watmough tries J Lyon 5 goals) bt PENRITH 0 at Brookvale Oval. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Henry Perenara. Crowd: 14,255