Manly Sea Eagles welcomed the Penrith Panthers to Lottoland, with the home side looking to break into the top eight, come the end of round 12, and the visitors hoping to extend their lead at the top.
The Panthers started the quicker of the two sides as Jahrome Luai’s kick across the field wasn’t claimed by Jorge Tuafua, and was eventually grounded by Brent Naden.
However, Charlie Staines made contact with the ball before Tuafua, so the try was scrapped for a knock-on.
The Panthers were not letting the Sea Eagles relax though.
Five minutes later, following a penalty, Isaah Yeo and Nathan Cleary combined to shift the ball out to Staines, who raced away into the corner and slid over.
Manly should have hit straight back though, as they came within inches of the Penrith try line on three consecutive tackles, but in the end, earned a goal-line drop-out.
Just before the 20th minute, the Panthers showed the Sea Eagles how to finish their chances.
Issah Yeo charged towards to posts, and despite initially being ground short, momentum took the loose-forward over the line, as he twisted over the top of Addin Fonua-Blake and grounded the ball.
With 15 minutes to go until the break, a third Panthers try came.
Clearly took the ball to the line, and with the Manly defenders narrow, threw a long looping pass over to Staines.
The winger still had plenty of work to do as he jumped to be the attempts of Parker and Suli and grounded the ball spectacularly for his sixth try in two games.
In the very next set, Cleary kicked a 40/20 to leave the Panthers camped inside the Manly half.
Kikau made a half-break on the left edge and offloaded to Luai, who found Stephen Crichton and the young centre crossed for his 11th of the season.
Manly weren’t going to give up though.
Curtis Sironen went to within centimetres of the line, but the ball was quickly moved left, and Jake Trbojevic ran hard and straight, twisted out the tackle and slammed the ball down to score.
In the final minute of the game, Brent Naden intercepted a Lachlan Croker pass, but couldn’t quite reach the try line, after Daly Cherry-Evans caught him.
After Trbojevic was penalised for being offside, Cleary opted to take the two points and the Panthers led by 18 at the break.
HALF-TIME: Manly Sea Eagles 6-24 Penrith Panthers
Despite losing both Brad Parker and Dylan Walker in the first half, the Sea Eagles started the second half the brighter of the two sides.
That was until the 50th minute when Nathan Cleary kicked along the floor on fifth tackle back inside and regathered to score under the posts and extend the Penrith lead.
The Sea Eagles clicked back into gear though as Cherry-Evans 40/30 put them into good field position, and after a few minutes, a second try followed.
The half-back then kicked low and flat across the Taufua, to slide over for the four-pointer.
With Manly slowly working their way back into the game, the Panthers took control once again.
Yeo and Cleary linked up again, this time through Tyrone May, who in turn, released Brent Naden to run away and score.
With eight and a half minutes to go, the Panthers hit forty, as Luai skipped up and down the Manly defensive line, waiting for someone to hit a hole, and Api Koroisau did just that to score under the posts.
The remainder of the game was reasonably quiet, but Manly did pick up another injury concern when Sironen seemed to pick up a bad knee injury.
FULL-TIME: Manly Sea Eagles 12-42 Penrith Panthers
Manly Sea Eagles
Elliot, Taufua, Parker, Suli, Garrick, Walker, Cherry-Evans, Fonua-Blake, Levi, Taupau, Thompson, Sironen, Trbojevic
Interchanges: Croker, Waddell, Keppie, Paseka
Tries: Trbojevic, Taufua
Goals: Garrick (2/2)
Aekins, Mansour, Naden, Crichton, Staines, Luai, Cleary, Tamou, Koroisau, Fisher-Harris, Kikau, Martin, Yeo
Interchanges: May, Leniu, Leota, Tetevano
Tries: Staines (2), Yeo, Crichton, Cleary, Naden, Koroisau
Goals: Cleary (6/7)
Referee: G. Sutton
Touch Judges: C. Butler, Z. Przeklasa-Adamski
Video Referee: B. Scott
Image Source: @NRL (Twitter)