By Michael Mapstone
Penrith showed why they are among the frontrunners in the VB NSW Cup competition as they outclassed Manly 42-8 on Saturday.
The Panthers’ big, fast outside backs proved too much of a handful for a Manly side that, despite its efforts, was never really in the hunt.
Penrith opened the scoring after just two minutes, a penalty from their first touch giving the impetus for a backline movement that saw powerful Fijian winger Eto Nabuli score in the left hand corner.
Will Smith slotted the sideline conversion for a 6-0 lead.
The margin was extended seven minutes later when Nathan Smith swooped on a cross-field bomb that had been spilled by Domenic Reardon.
The Panthers showed real grit in the ensuing 10 minute period, holding Manly out for three consecutive sets on their line. When the visitors defused a kick and worked the ball back downfield, Nabuli was able to hold off two defenders and throw a basketball-style pass for Kevin Naiqama to cross in the corner.
Will Smith converted from the sideline to put the Panthers up by 16.
Manly applied further pressure through a repeat set before Cheyse Blair was finally able to lunge over after a last pass from Clint Gutherson.
Manaia Rudolph failed to convert.
The Sea Eagles also missed another scoring opportunity when Leonati Feiloakitau-Fetuani was ruled to have dropped the ball over the line minutes later.
Five minutes before the break the Panthers cemented a deserved half-time lead when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak dived on to an uncontested cross-field grubber in the right hand corner.
Smith missed the conversion, but the Panthers led 20-4.
The Penrith motor was still humming after the break, the Panthers rolling through their opening set before Nabuli finished it off with a bullocking 15 metre run to the line.
Just two minutes later the Panthers spun the ball left again before Naiqama cut through the Manly line and ran 40 metres to score.
Smith’s conversion made it 30-4.
The second half was still less than 10 minutes old when the Panthers crossed again, this time running to the right on their last tackle from 40 metres out, sharp passing back inside allowing Keiran Moss to cross.
At 36-4 much of the sting had gone out of the contest, but Manly’s effort was rewarded when passes by VB NSW Cup debutant Jamil Hopoate (son of former international John) and Gutherson created an overlap for Dylan Kelly to score out wide.
Gutherson missed the conversion.
Appropriately it was the Panthers who were last to score. Nabuli again found space, this time up the middle corridor, to send Watene-Zelezniak on his way from inside his own half to score his second.
Smith converted to bring the final score to 42-8.
Next weekend Manly are at home again on the Saturday when they host the Roos while the Panthers head to Wollongong on Sunday afternoon to take on the Cutters.
Penrith Panthers 42 (K Naiqama 2, D Watene-Zelezniak 2, E Nabuli 2, K Moss, N Smith tries; W Smith 5 goals) def. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 8 (C Blair, D Kelly tries) at Brookvale Oval.