The Panthers flexed their premiership muscle early with a convincing 28-6 win over a reeling Manly side thanks to their devastating new center and Jarome Luai combination.
The Panthers appeared to have scored Stephen Crichton’s first try before he was called up for an obstruction.
Then Brian To’o appeared to have scored the first down moments later before being ruled to have run behind Panthers’ five-eighth Jarome Luai in a tough call.
“Where is he supposed to go?” Michael Ennis said on Fox League.
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Haumole Olakau’atu was penalized for a late hit giving Crichton the chance to extend the Panthers’ lead to 8-0.
“Manly is stuck in quicksand,” Ginnane said.
“They are desperate for halftime.”
Crichton then crashed out before the break to extend the lead to 12-0.
Against the run of play, Manly scored a brilliant long-range try against Ethan Bullemor to make it 12-6 at halftime to keep them in the game.
“They were trying to survive until half-time, then the Bullemor try and all of a sudden they’re in the contest.
The Panthers restored their dominance with a Jarome Luai try after the break to make it 18-6.
“Majestic No. 6,” Ennis said.
Api Koroisau then dived from close range to put the result beyond doubt at 24-6.
“It’s just a suffocation from Penrith,” Ginnane said.
Liam Martin scored a late try to end the 30-6 rout.
Here are the main takeaways from the game.
NOT CLEAR, NO PROBLEM AS LUAI SHINES
Few gave the Panthers a chance with Nathan Cleary sidelined until Round 4, but Jarome Luai reminded everyone how good he was in the season opener.
The Origin five-eighth took the Panthers and put them on their backs as he led the team around the park and scored an excellent solo try after halftime to all but seal the result.
“Luai goes out there and scores,” Ginnane said.
“Luai is here and Penrith has his third. It’s a wonderful start to the second half for the Panthers. Manly just can’t keep hanging on.
“When this guy is in the first halves, he’s got a record of 90%. 48 wins and five losses. Even without Nathan Cleary, they’re in good hands with that number 6.”
“Majestic No. 6,” added Michael Ennis.
“Just shoot and probe on that left side. Luai finds his great friend Kikau and Viliame unloads on Luai who scores out of sheer fatigue.
“The virile stopwatch and the little dancing number 6 are accelerating. A tired defense from Manly.
“Luai gets his first of the season. He’s a happy boy.”
Ennis also praised the performance of Cleary’s replacement Sean O’Sullivan.
“He did an impressive job O’Sullivan,” Ennis said.
“He was under a lot of pressure coming into the game given Cleary’s form last year. Everyone expected Luai to take over the game, but it was O’Sullivan who led the team. This allowed Luai to play his natural game and pick his moments. He was great.
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SHELL-SHOCKED MANLY HAS NO RESPONSE AS TURBO KEEPS CALM
Manly came into the clash as the favorite in many people’s eyes, but they showed they still have some way to go to match the benchmark of the reigning premiers.
Manly was convincingly beaten five tries to one, but the Panthers were also denied two tries due to obstruction, the second of which was a very tough call against Jarome Luai.
Greg Alexander thinks Luai didn’t stop Tom Trbojevic from tackling Brian To’o.
“Two no-trys in the first 10 minutes and it was an assault on the Manly line,” Alexander said.
“Good football played by the Panthers.
“That of Brian To’o, it arrives at the line. I agree that Jarome Luai was in front of the ball carrier, but he played no part in preventing Tom Trbojevic from making the tackle.
“To’o puts on the footwork and Trbojevic pushes Luai back to get closer to To’o, so it wasn’t an obstruction game. It should have been a try.
Cooper Cronk noted how pumped the Sea Eagles were and it was only thanks to an inspiring play from Jake Trbojevic that they kept the scoreline tight in the first half.
“The rest of the first half was all Penrith,” Cronk said.
“They dominated the position on the pitch. They were playing the perfect balance between physical in the middle and then around the edges with their skill.
“It was only through the instinct and inspiring play of Jake Trbojevic that Manly got back into the game.
“They had just 18 balls in Penrith’s half and came on at half time 12-6.”
The Panthers gave the rest of the competition the blueprint on how to stop Tom Trbojevic by starving Manly of field position and possession.
“Tom Trbojevic was completely sidelined,” Alexander said.
“Six points for Manly and last year they averaged 30,” Ennis said.
“It’s because of possession and where the game is being played.
“You talk about the plan, there would be a lot of coaches there just watching this relentless kicking plan.
“The Panthers were so disciplined with their plans. He’s just been relentless on Saab. It was executed so well that Manly can’t get out of Saab’s corner. They did not come out of this corner of the night.
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PANTHERS NEW LOOK CENTER PAIRING RUN RIOT
The Panthers may have lost their 2021 Grand Final center duo of Matt Burton and Paul Momirovski, but their replacements ensured the future is still bright.
Young gun Izack Tago impressed on his first start of the season, while Stephen Crichton showed he was still one of the best centers in the game after returning to his favored position.
Tago and Crichton both scored in the first half to give their side a 12-6 lead at the break.
Tago’s try saw him put his body on the line and dive low to come down.
“Tago scores and eventually the Panthers go up the board,” Ginnane said.
“It’s the young cannon. The 19 year old. Last year’s Rookie of the Year for the Panthers, getting the first points for the Mountaineers.
“Young Tago digging in the bottom,” Ennis said.
“He had To’o on the outside and he held it well. Show and depart from Tago. Rid of Saab and gets the footy down. Perfect body position, beautiful and low.
Cooper Cronk believes Crichton was the difference between the teams after dominating opponent Brad Parker.
“Stephen Crichton gave Parker an absolute bath in the first half,” Cronk said.
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