Manly’s minor premiership hopes are still well and truly alive after a 34 – 16 win over the Penrith Panthers today.Â A somewhat unconvincing win for the Eagles means Melbourne still have a chance to reclaim the minor premiership.
Leading 18-6 midway through the first half, the Eagles were in control of the match and looked set to come away withÂ a big win.Â However, the Panthers, despite knowing their season was all but over, remained in contention for most of the match.
Based on the result, the Storm now need to beat South Sydney by more than 26 points tomorrow night to climb their way back into 1st position on the ladder which would mean back-to-back minor premierships for the Club.
Playing in wet and slippery conditions, Steve Menzies,Â Steve BellÂ and the Stewart brothers, Brett and Glenn, found their way over the line for 4 pointers while David Williams scored a double.
Playing without Luke Lewis, the Panthers put on 3 tries through Tony Puletua, Paul Aiton and Nathan Smith.Â Â While going down at full time, the Panthers put in a gutsy performance with just over 6000 fans.
Panthers were first to cross the line, scoring in the 7th minute when Puletua, playing his last NRL match, barged through a missed tackle by Menzies.
Menzies righted his wrong only 3 minutes later, when he scored out wide.Â Manly then commanded the lead after 14 minutes when Bell made a break sending Williams over the try line.
Bagging a double, Williams crossed again in the 25th minute, intercepting a terrible pass from Nathan Smith.Â Â Panthers dug deep and kept themselves in the game when hooker Aiton made a dummy half run and dived over the line bringing the score back to 18-12 at half time.
Smith bought the Panthers back within two 2 points after halftime when Rooney batted back a Jarrod Sammut kick, but they failed to even the scores as Michael Gordon’s conversion hit the upright.
Storming his way over the line in the 54th minute, Glenn Stewart gave the Sea Eagles a breath of fresh air while his brother Brett all but sealed the win with a try and only 12 minutes remaining on the clock.
In the last 3 minutes, Panthers dropped their defence and saw Bell almost walk his way through to the line scoring what could be seen as a crucial try in the minor premiership race.
With Panthers season now over, we see Tony Puletua heading to St Helens, Luke Priddis moving to St George Illawarra, Rhys Wesser heading to Souths and Luke Rooney on his way to visit Sonny Bill at Toulon.Â Â Â A win for the Panthers tonight, however, would have offered some much needed encouragement to coach Matthew Elliott, who has been subject to intense speculation that he is possibly going to be sacked by the club.