When Tom Trbojevic suffered a pectoral muscle tear in the second State of Origin match, many predicted the downfall of the Manly Sea Eagles‘ season. Surprisingly, this anticipated end was precipitated by an unexpected kicking duel initiated by Trbojevic’s replacement, Reuben Garrick.
Garrick has had a notable stint in the No.1 spot but outstanding performances are not void of sporadic moments of frenzy. A standout instance is a 12-12 deadlock with the Panthers, the most likely league champions, as Manly’s season hung in the balance. Here, Garrick chose to swiftly return a kick from Penrith, a move seemingly strategised for speedster Jason Saab.
Manly coach Anthony Seibold had earlier cited the need for a different approach to take down the Panthers. Unfortunately, Manly’s disorganised chase ultimately resulted in Sunia Turuva getting hold of the ball and racing to score. Following this, the Sea Eagles hardly posed any challenge to the Panthers.
Manly, a team that showed immense promise at the onset of the season, may not see the finals in Seibold’s first year unless an unforeseen turn of events unfolds. That being said, their season was not entirely lacklustre and they surprisingly remained in the finals contention longer than expected after the Trbojevic incident. However, they need to secure a win in their remaining three games to stand a chance. Yet, even that might not be enough, given the Panthers‘ narrow 24-12 victory at 4 Pines Park on Thursday evening, getting them one step closer to another minor premiership.
Josh Schuster, one of NRL‘s more controversial players, managed to steal a pass from Nathan Cleary in under four minutes, and continue to run 50 metres, often seen searching for an assistant. Brad Parker attempted to help; however, he resembled a struggling car on its last drop of fuel. Therefore, a seemingly cornered Schuster resorted to a kick, the first play that no Sea Eagle managed to get near.
Galvanising the situation for him, Daly Cherry-Evans, his halves partner and skipper, tossed an intercept minutes later, which was luckily caught by speedster Stephen Crichton, who subsequently scored. Cherry-Evans later redeemed himself by the end of the half, while Schuster could not. The captain’s well-timed pass allowed Garrick to score, giving the hosts the lead after Tof Sipley had earlier powered his way past four defenders to contribute the easiest try the Panthers had allowed in four years.
Crichton’s second try levelled the scores at 12-12 at the intermission, amidst protest from Manly fans who believed Liam Martin had knocked the ball into Raymond Tuaimalo Vaega while contesting a previous bomb. They might have been onto something.
However, Garrick’s ill-judged return kick that resulted in a faulty chase and then a Turuva try was less defensible. To worsen Manly’s situation, Ben Trbojevic and Brad Parker exited the pitch for concussion tests within the first two minutes of the second half, both of which they failed. Manly had not done themselves any favours with a kicking duel.
The Penrith Panthers emerged victorious with 24 points (tries contributed by Stephen Crichton with two, Sunia Turuva, and Brian To’o, and four goals from Nathan Cleary), defeating the Manly Sea Eagles who scored 12 points (tries by Tof Sipley and Reuben Garrick, and two goals made by Garrick) at 4 Pines Park. The match, refereed by Gerard Sutton, was attended by a crowd of 10,102.