Penrith have surged home late, scoring three tries inside the final ten minutes to eventually run out 24-6 winners over Manly, in what was one of the poorest games played to date in 2016 with both sides guilty of making far too many errors, despite the good playing conditions on offer at Pepper Stadium.
Despite the inclusion of Jamie Soward and James Segeyaro, Penrith struggled to gel in attack for long periods, allowing a Manly side, led admirably by Feleti Mateo to stay in the contest at 6-6 going into the final ten minutes of the game.
But the class of centre Will Smith proved to the difference, as he completed his hat-trick with two late tries before Dockar-Clay’s try on the bell put the result beyond doubt to ensure the Panthers remain inside the top eight with their third win in succession.
Penrith dominated possession in the opening ten minutes but were made to paid for their inability to convert pressure into points when Feleti Mateo took advantage of a rushing George Jennings in defence, creating an overlap that enabled former Panther, Tony Satini to put Ben Fritz in for an aerobatic try in the left corner in the 12th minute, converted brilliantly from the side-line by Hugh Pratt to give Manly a surprise 6-0 lead.
Mateo was easily the most dangerous player in the field in the early stages with his ability to drag players in and offload at will but it was one offload too many that enabled Penrith to level the scores seven minutes later.
From the ensuing set Soward drifted left creating a three on two situation before putting Smith through the hole to score with ease and with the veteran five-eighth’s conversion, scores were level midway through the half.
But for the best part of fifty minutes the game became punctuated with error after error with sides guilty of showing little regard for possession.
But Manly could have broken the deadlock just before halftime when Pratt’s grubber kick into the in-goal was reached first by half, Pita Godinet but was travelling at such spped he couldn’t control the ball and the opportunity to lead at the break was lost.
The second half continued where the first half had left off but again it was Manly who had the chance to take the lead after Mateo’s good leadup work enabled Ben Fritz to streak down the left touchline but as the tryline loomed, a brilliant cover tackle from his opposite winger, Malakai Watene-Zeleniak saw the Manly flanker lose control of the ball.
Penrith dominated territorially for much of the half but looked berift of ideas inside Manly’s 20 as the new-look spine struggled to combine.
But just when the game looked set to end in a draw, Penrith finally found their attacking mojo to score those three tries inside the final ten minutes.
Back-to-back tries to Smith in the 72nd and 75th both resulting from sweeping left edge plays saw Penrith blow the scoreline out to 18-6 before an easy try on the last play of the game from a scrum win to Zach Dockar-Clay gave Penrith their somewhat flattering 24-6 scoreline.
Next Saturday the Panthers again play at Pepper Stadium when they host Newcastle while Manly return home to Brookvale when they take on competition leaders, Mounties.