Panthers look to enter first bye with four straight wins

Brad Schneider controlled a steady ship last week. Photo: NRL Photos.
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The Panthers head to Brookvale Oval on Saturday evening knowing that a win is about more than just two competition points.

There’s always stakes in the ground as far as season progression is concerned and getting to their first bye in Round Six in pretty good shape would have been the first of many for the Panthers.

Penrith have a chance to enter that week off with a 4-1 record, pretty impressive given their shortened preparation and the loss of halfback Nathan Cleary to a hamstring strain after Round 3.

It also must be noted that the Panthers had an extremely tough draw, so the potential to go into the bye with such an impressive record is something to crow about, no doubt.

Standing in the way though is a Manly side desperate to get back into form after a diabolical 20-12 loss to St George-Illawarra last Saturday in Wollongong. How it wasn’t a bigger scoreline probably tells you how bad the Dragons are going too.

The Panthers muscle up in defence. Photo: NRL Photos.

“We were out-played… that was really clear for everyone to see,” Sea Eagles coach Anthony Seibold said post-game.

“We were second by a fair distance to be fair.”

You would think Manly couldn’t be that bad again. Not on their home turf, and not staring down the barrel of a third consecutive loss.
Penrith though would be fairly confident making the trip to the northern beaches, even with Nathan Cleary not bringing his match-day kit.

Ivan Cleary’s side was impressive against the Roosters last weekend, never really headed on their way to chalking up a 22-16 win at Allianz Stadium.

Sure, had Nathan Cleary been there the game probably would have been iced much earlier, but yet again Penrith’s systems won through and it was great to see Jarome Luai take a more active role in Penrith’s attack, while Dylan Edwards had his best game all season.

Manly will be looking for their big guns to fire on Saturday. With both Tom Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans particularly disappointing against the Dragons, both will have something to prove. Trbojevic, for the record, leads the NRL in individual errors this year with 13.

Jarome Luai has stepped up in Nathan Cleary’s absence. Photo: Megan Dunn.

Meantime, his fullback counterpart in Edwards continues to knock on the door of Blues Origin selectors. Not only did he produce a standout effort last week including one of the tries of the season, but he leads the NRL in All Runs, Run Metres and Kick Return Metres.

Penrith identified issues on the Roosters’ left-side defence last weekend and continued to pepper that side, and they’ll no doubt look to exploit any shortcomings in the Manly side this weekend.

I’m expecting a high scoring encounter. On a crisp Brookvale evening, I expect there to be plenty of tries scored and the result to be pretty close before Penrith eventually pull away.

The return of James Fisher-Harris is a particularly big inclusion for Penrith.

And here’s a telling stat for you: Penrith have not lost the week before a bye since Round 11, 2016. Make of that what you will.

Tip: Panthers by 8.

Penrith and Manly play at 5.30pm on Saturday, April 6 at 4 Pines Park. The game is live on Fox League and Kayo.

Troy Dodds

Troy Dodds is the Weekender's Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia's leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.

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