Penrith made sure it will finish round 12 on top of the NRL ladder following a comprehensive 42-12 defeat of Manly at Brookvale Oval.
- Penrith scored seven tries to two against the Sea Eagles, with Charlie Staines crossing for a double
- A Jarrod Croker penalty goal proved the difference on the scoreboard in the Raiders’ 14-12 win against the Cowboys
- Joseph Manu played a starring role in the Roosters’ 18-12 win over the Titans
Earlier on Saturday, Canberra showed its class to sneak home with a 14-12 win over North Queensland, while the Sydney Roosters survived an almighty scare from Gold Coast to escape with an 18-12 triumph.
The Panthers skipped three points clear of Melbourne and Parramatta on the ladder, although the Storm and Eels will play their respective round-12 fixtures on Sunday.
Charlie Staines, playing just his second NRL match, scored two tries in 25 action-filled minutes before limping off the field with a hamstring injury.
Nathan Cleary also put on a masterclass, setting up two tries and scoring one of his own in the second half when he regathered his own grubber.
But Staines was the main attraction.
He became the first man since South Sydney’s Don Manson in 1937 to score six tries in his first two matches.
In the time since his four tries on debut last month, the winger has spent two weeks in quarantine after having too many visitors in his home and then visiting Nepean Hospital with lockjaw.
But while Penrith shot out of the blocks to a 22-0 lead after 30 minutes, it was an absolute horror show for Manly.
Dylan Walker left the field with a foot injury just 10 minutes into his return from an issue higher up in the same foot, while Curtis Sironen hurt his knee and Brad Parker suffered a concussion.
The loss drops the Sea Eagles back out of the top eight and with a crucial few weeks ahead before Tom Trbojevic’s planned return in three matches.
Meanwhile, the performance was one of the best of Penrith’s season, with the Panthers completing at 91 per cent and playing expansive football.
Staines opened the scoring when he got the ball down in a tight space on the right edge in the 10th minute, then Cleary gifted him with a perfect lofted ball for his second.
Cleary kicked a 40-20 before another try before one of his grubbers rebounded into Penrith hands and Viliame Kikau put on an offload for Stephen Crichton to score.
Isaah Yeo, Api Koroisau and Brent Naden also claimed tries in the demolition job.
Cherry-Evans was clearly Manly’s best.
He put Jake Trbojevic over with an inside ball for their only first-half try and kicked for Jorge Taufua for one in the second.
He also somehow held Kikau up to save one and stopped another when he chased down Naden after running 80 metres from a Lachlan Croker intercept.
Raiders hang tough to win up north
It was far from the Raiders’ best performance but they did enough to edge a willing Cowboys outfit, with both teams scoring two tries in Townsville.
The Cowboys threw everything at their opponents but too often let themselves down with their kicking options.
Gunning for their third successive victory, the Raiders looked as if they were suffering jet lag early on after their long match-day flight to Canberra.
They were caught out just two minutes into the match when North Queensland hooker Reece Robson dashed over the line from dummy half.
The Raiders found their groove to level in the 18th minute when half-back George Williams started and finished a 70-metre try, helped by a big charge and fend by winger Nick Cotric.
A 35th-minute penalty strike by captain Jarrod Croker allowed his team to take an 8-6 lead to half-time.
Canberra prop Josh Papalii was both hero and villain within two minutes, stripping the ball but then being placed on report for a forearm to the head of the Cowboys’ teenage full-back Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
Cowboys skipper Jason Taumalolo steamed to the try line to put his side up but it was short-lived with the Raiders hitting back four minutes later.
England international John Bateman, playing his first match of the year after two rounds of shoulder surgery, found Curtis Scott, who fended off winger Murray Taulagi to score.
Sharpshooter Croker then showed his value, nailing the conversion from the sideline to put his side ahead again.
The final 12 minutes saw four captains’ challenges, with the Cowboys correct with both but they couldn’t find the points for a win or to take the match into golden point.
Roosters deny gutsy Titans
In an action-packed match laced with drama at the SCG, the Roosters overcame their crippling injury toll to preserve their place in the top four thanks largely to the heroics of classy centre Joseph Manu.
Already missing eight players from their 2019 grand final-winning outfit and with superstar signing Sonny Bill Williams holed up in quarantine, the Roosters lost try-scoring ace Josh Morris to a calf strain before Saturday afternoon’s kick-off.
Fortunately the back-to-back premiers had Manu, whose leaping 58th-minute try and miracle first-half try saver on Phillip Sami saved the Roosters embarrassment.
The Titans could have bagged four first-half tries but had to settle for only one after blowing two and seeing Manu pull off his incredible rescue act before the break.
Jamal Fogarty was also denied a try in just the second minute, the half-back touching down only for the bunker to rule Titans teammate Brian Kelly had passed him the ball off the ground.
But there was no denying Anthony Don eight minutes later when the prolific winger started and finished his own 75-metre effort.
After scrambling for much of the half, somehow the Roosters went to the break with a 10-6 advantage after half-back Kyle Flanagan added two penalties to his conversion of Mitch Aubusson’s try.
The Titans were reduced to 12 men for a second time in the match when Keegan Hipgrave was sin-binned for taking out Lindsay Collins.
The Roosters’ claims for a penalty try were denied but Flanagan’s two points made it 12-6 before Manu soared high to reel in Luke Keary’s cross-field bomb.
That appeared to seal the deal before Sami crossed with five minutes remaining to give Roosters fans a tense finish.