The Penrith Panthers, leaders of the league, have reasserted their one-game advantage at the peak with a 24-12 victory against Manly.
In a riveting and intense match held at Brookvale Oval, the Sea Eagles challenged the Panthers vigorously during the majority of the opening hour, but their energy diminished towards the latter part leading to their downfall, effectively crushing their hopes of reaching the finals. For up-to-date scores, stats and the ladder, visit the Score Centre.
The Panthers, though sitting at the top of the ladder, were far from displaying the prowess that won them two premierships, particularly on Thursday night. They wasted numerous opportunities when in a favourable position on the field and had difficulties connecting their plays in the absence of their routine five-eighth, Jarome Luai, due to sickness, and their hooker, Mitch Kenny, who was injured.
Although the Sea Eagles showcased remarkable performance for the first half, it is almost guaranteed that their season will not extend past the top eight now.
The Sea Eagles‘ inferior point differential means even if they clinch victory in their last three games, they cannot exceed a 50% winning record.
Manly made the opening gambit, troubling the Panthers with their wide-ranging attack, and managed to disrupt the premiers’ goal-line defence twice from close quarters – a notable achievement in 2023.
The first half concluded with a draw at 12-12. However, the Panthers were fortunate to have made it on the scoreboard only because of a Stephen Crichton intercept, scored against the play and a second that followed a blunder by Liam Martin as he collided with Manly’s Raymond Vaega while challenging a kick.
Had Martin’s knock-on been followed by a tackle prior to Crichton grounding the ball, the try might have been disallowed.
The momentum they had built during the first half was now a lost cause.