New year, same Panthers! Penrith put the cleaners through Manly as Jarome Luai & Co shut down Tom Trbojevic to send out warning message to the league in season curtain-raiser
- Penrith Panthers put the cleaners through Manly to win the NRL season opener
- The Premiers saw two early tries ruled out for obstruction infringements
- Izack Tago clinched the breakthrough after a dominant spell of possession
- Manly scored against the run of play but it was all Penrith from then on
- Ivan Cleary’s side sent out a strong warning as they shut down Turbo Trbojevic
Penrith have erased any fears of a premiership hangover, putting the cleaners through Manly 28-6 in a dominant NRL season opener.
Ivan Cleary spent the pre-season reminding Penrith players that 2022 was a new season that would bring new challenges.
But for the most part, it was a case of new year, same brilliant Panthers as they brought their title home to 16,901 fans at Bluebet Stadium.
Penrith Panthers sent out a warning message to the league with a win over Manly Sea Eagles
The reigning Premiers picked up from where they left off last year with no sign of a hangover
In an electric start to 2022, Penrith were in control from the opening minutes as they dominated possession and field position.
Viliame Kikau starred as he played a hand in two tries and monstered Manly on the left, while lock Isaah Yeo was typically pivotal.
Without superstar halfback Nathan Cleary, replacement Sean O’Sullivan stepped up, while Dylan Edwards got through 288 metres at fullback.
New face Izack Tago also scored a try in his first game at left centre, with the position a magnet for points at Penrith in the past two seasons.
Arguably more impressive than anything was the way they shut down Tom Trbojevic, with the Dally M medallist, despite setting up Manly’s try, only breaking the line once late in the game.
After seeing two tries ruled out for obstruction, youngster Izack Tago finally scored the first
The scary thing for Penrith’s rivals will also be that without Cleary the scoreline could have been even more dominant after they were controversially denied two tries for obstructions.
The win comes after Penrith dropped their last pre-season trial match 36-0 to Parramatta following a summer of roster challenges and off-season departures.
Kikau, one of those players to sign elsewhere for next year, was instrumental from the start, setting up Penrith’s first try when he offloaded and Tago found space to score.
The second-rower had a hand in another try early in the second half, running it on the last tackle and offloading back for Jarome Luai to score.
Dally M winner Tom Trbojevic was kept quiet for the duration of the game by the champions
O’Sullivan’s golden moment came in the first half, providing a long cut-out ball for Stephen Crichton to step his way over.
Apisai Koroisau and Liam Martin also claimed tries in the second half, as Penrith rolled through Manly with 73 per cent of the game played in their half.
For Manly, it was a case of same old problems against the best teams.
They conceded an average of 34 points per game against the three sides who finished above them last year, with Thursday revealing the same issues.
Their few chances in Penrith’s half mainly came off the back of penalties, with their forwards battling to get into the game and Penrith controlling the ruck.
They could also have judiciary trouble, with Haumole Olakau’atu on report for late contact and his likely back-row replacement Karl Lawton suffering a bad head knock.
Trbojevic had a role in the Sea Eagles’ only try when his brother Jake dummied and ran from dummy-half at the end of the first half.
Kieran Foran helped put the fullback into space before Bullemor loomed up on the outside to score.