Carrington Park, Bathurst: Panthers forward Liam Martin showed some remarkable athletic skill to play his part in what will go down as an early contender for the NRL try of the year.
Penrith marched to their eighth straight win with a 28-16 victory over a spirited Manly.
Stephen Crichton celebrates with teammates after scoring a try.Credit:Getty
The best moment for fans enjoying the action on the other side of the Blue Mountains came with just two minutes on the clock when Martin leapt high and stopped a Dylan Edwards grubber trickling over the dead-ball line. He then somehow swatted the ball back in play for Stephen Crichton to plant the ball down for a try.
Just how a 100kg forward like Martin was able to think so quickly and keep the ball in play had to be seen to be believed. It immediately evoked memories of Greg Inglis flying high to knock the ball back for Mark Gasnier to score during the Kangaroos’ Centenary Test against New Zealand in 2008.
The desperation shown by Martin so late in the game partly explains why the Panthers continue to sit top of the ladder.
The last time a team started the NRL season with eight straight wins was Melbourne in 2012. The Storm won the premiership that year.
Viliame Kikau offloads at Carrington Park.Credit:Getty
There are plenty of fans who are convinced this can be Penrith’s year.
Manly did well to get as close as they did after Jason Saab raced nearly 70m with five minutes on the clock fo make it a four-point ball-game.
When Matt Burton was placed on report for a high shot on Marty Taupau as he brought the ball back from the kick-off, Manly marched down field with a penalty, but soon coughed up possession.
Penrith and Martin then made sure there were no doubts about the result.
The Sea Eagles put in a much better effort considering they were lapped by 40 points against the same side a month ago.
One-eyed Penrith fans, however, will point out two of Manly’s tries were from long range while Daly Cherry-Evans’ four-pointer also had a touch of luck when it bounced off an upright into his chest.
But Manly will beat plenty of teams in the coming months if Tom Trbojevic and Cherry-Evans stay fit. Trbojevic scored a 70m try as the Manly and Penrith faithful held their breath hoping he would not break down with a hamstring injury.
Panthers winger Brian To’o played a big role in setting up Penrith’s first try, then scored the second. His teammate on the same left edge, Viliame Kikau, was kept quiet most of the afternoon.
Nathan Cleary set up two tries and showed tremendous courage to dive on a ball that had bounced off the post and was fielded by Trbojevic. A well-weighted kick handed Tyrone May his try while a short ball sent Martin crashing over in the first half.
The halfback also came up with a smart kick right on half-time when he found touch off a 20m re-start. The Panthers fed the scrum and Crichton was given a rare chance to take a field-goal, only to push his left-footed attempted wide.
Penrith will be at skinny odds to make it nine straight wins at home to Cronulla next Friday, while Manly host the New Zealand Warriors next Sunday.
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